Life Sciences Seminar

The role of the basal forebrain in learning

by Dr Balázs Hangya (Research Institute for Experimental Medicine, Hungarian Academy of Sciences)

1st floor seminar room (KFKI, Building 13)

1st floor seminar room

KFKI, Building 13

1121, Budapest, Konkoly-Thege út 29-33.
Central cholinergic neurons are rapidly recruited by reinforcement feedback 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 central cholinergic neurons responded phasically to primary reward and punishment with remarkable speed and precision (18±2 ms), unexpected for a neuromodulatory system. Responses to reward were scaled by reinforcement surprise, raising the possibility that the cholinergic system also conveys cognitive information. These results suggest that cholinergic neurons form a rapid, reliable and temporally precise signaling route for reinforcement feedback that can mediate fast cortical activation and plasticity.