Many researchers have reported that the magnitude of decrease in cortical choline acetyltransferase (ChAT) following excitotoxic lesions of the nucleus basalis magnocellularis (nbm) is unrelated to the degree of cognitive impairment. Recently, an explanation has been offered for this lack of correlation: different excitotoxins, when injected into the nbm, differentially affected cholinergic projections to the cortex and amygdala, and those excitotoxins previously reported to produce the greatest mnemonic deficits produced the largest decreases in amygdaloid ChAT. The present study evaluated the role of amygdalofugal cholinergic projections in memory by comparing the effects of intra-nbm ibotenic and quisqualic acid on cortical and amygdaloid ChAT and on mnemonic performance in the double Y-maze. Rats were trained in the double Y-maze until working and reference memory choice accuracy stabilized to a criterion of ≥ 78% correct. Rats then were given either bilateral quisqualic acid (60 nmol in 0.5 μl), bilateral ibotenic acid (50 nmol in 0.5 μl), or sham (0.9% saline in 0.5 μl) lesions of the nbm, and again were tested on the maze. Quisqualate produced a selective impairment of working memory, a large (51%) decrease in cortical ChAT and a small (17%) decrease in amygdaloid ChAT; ibotenate, on the other hand, produced a greater impairment of working memory, an impairment of reference memory, a similar (51%) decrease in cortical ChAT, but a greater (30%) decrease in amygdaloid ChAT. These results suggest that the cholinergic projections from the nbm to the cortex and amygdala play an important role in memory. They suggest that excitotoxins producing greater depletions of amygdaloid ChAT produce greater mnemonic deficits. © 1994.
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