Removal of cholinergic input to rat posterior parietal cortex disrupts incremental processing of conditioned stimuli

David J. Bucci, Peter C. Holland, Michela Gallagher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

175 Scopus citations


Recent research suggests that the basal forebrain cholinergic neurons innervating the cortex play a role in attentional functions in both primates and rodents. Among the cortical targets of these projections in primates is the posterior parietal cortex (PPC), a region shown to be critically involved in the regulation of attention. Recent anatomical studies have defined a cortical region in the rat that may be homologous to the PPC of primates. In the present study, cholinergic innervation of the PPC was depleted by intracortical infusion of the immunotoxin 192 IgG-saporin. Control and lesioned rats were then tested in two associative learning paradigms designed to increase attentional processing of conditioned stimuli (CSs). In one experiment, attention was manipulated by shifting a predictive relation between a light CS and another CS to a less predictive relation. Unlike control rats, lesioned rats failed to increase attention when the predictive relation was modified. In a second experiment, attentional processing of a tone CS was increased when its introduction during training coincided with a change in the value of the unconditioned stimulus, a phenomenon referred to as unblocking. Unlike control rats, lesioned rats failed to exhibit unblocking. In both paradigms, lesioned rats conditioned normally when the training procedures did not encourage increased attentional processing. These findings, across different behavioral paradigms and stimulus modalities, provide converging evidence that intact cholinergic innervation of the PPC is important for changes in attention that can increase the processing of certain cues.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8038-8046
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 1998


  • 192 IgG-saporin
  • Acetylcholine
  • Associative learning
  • Attention
  • Cholinergic basal forebrain
  • Immunotoxin
  • Posterior parietal cortex
  • Rats

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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