Central cholinergic neurons are rapidly recruited by reinforcement feedback


September 17, 2014 - 1:00pm
NW 243
About the Speaker
Balazs Hangya (Kepecs Lab, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)

The nucleus basalis (NB) gives rise to the central cholinergic neuromodulatory system that innervates the entire neocortex and is thought to regulate cortical states, attention, and plasticity. However, it is not known when cholinergic neurons are recruited during behavior and how their activity might support different aspects of cognition. We used optogenetic identification to record cholinergic neurons in behaving mice.  We found that tonic changes in cholinergic firing are correlated with brain states but not with behavioral measures of attention on a trial-to-trial basis. On the other hand, cholinergic neurons responded phasically to reward and punishment with remarkable speed and precision (18±2 ms), unexpected for a neuromodulatory system. These results suggest that cholinergic neurons have dual functions with tonic firing mediating vigilance and phasic firing rapidly signaling reinforcement feedback.