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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24692

Title: A Cross-species Examination of Cholinergic Influences on Feature Binding: Implications for Attention and Learning
Authors: Botly, Leigh Cortland Perry
Advisor: De Rosa, Eve
Department: Psychology
Keywords: behavioral neuroscience
acetylcholine
feature binding
attention
learning
basal forebrain
nucleus basalis magnocellularis
Issue Date: 5-Aug-2010
Abstract: Feature binding refers to the fundamental challenge of the brain to integrate sensory information registered by distinct brain regions to form a unified neural representation of a stimulus. While the human cognitive literature has established that attentional processes in a frontoparietal cortical network support feature binding, the neurochemical contributions to this attentional process remain unknown. Using systemic administration of the cholinergic muscarinic receptor antagonist scopolamine and a digging-based rat feature binding task that used both odor and texture stimuli, it was demonstrated that blockade of acetylcholine (ACh) at the muscarinic receptors impaired rats’ ability to feature bind at encoding, and it was proposed that ACh may support the attentional processes necessary for feature binding (Botly & De Rosa, 2007). This series of experiments further investigated a role for ACh and the cholinergic basal forebrain (BF) in feature binding. In Experiment 1, a cross-species experimental design was employed in which rats under the systemic influence of scopolamine and human participants under divided-attention performed comparable feature binding tasks using odor stimuli for rats and coloured-shape visual stimuli for humans. Given the comparable performance impairments demonstrated by both species, Experiment 1 suggested that ACh acting at muscarinic receptors supports the attentional processes necessary for feature binding at encoding. Experiments 2-4 investigated the functional neuroanatomy of feature binding using bilateral quisqualic acid excitotoxic (Experiment 2) and 192 IgG-saporin cholinergic immunotoxic (Experiments 3 and 4) brain lesions that were assessed for completeness using histological and immunohistological analyses. Using the crossmodal digging-based rat feature binding task, Experiment 2 revealed that the nucleus basalis magnocellularis (NBM) of the BF is critically involved in feature binding, and Experiment 3 revealed that cholinergic neurons in the NBM are necessary for feature binding at encoding. Lastly, in Experiment 4, rats performed visual search, the standard test of feature binding in humans, with touchscreen-equipped operant chambers. Here it was also revealed that cholinergic neurons in the NBM of the BF are critical for efficient visual search. Taken together, these behavioural, pharmacological, and brain-lesion findings have provided insights into the neurochemical contributions to the fundamental attentional process of feature binding.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/24692
Appears in Collections:Doctoral
Department of Psychology - Doctoral theses

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