Long-lasting cholinergic modulation underlies rule learning in rats

Drorit Saar, Yoram Grossman, Edi Barkai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We studied the role of acetylcholine (ACh) in creating learning-related long-lasting modifications in the rat cortex. Rats were trained to discriminate positive and negative cues in pairs of odors, until they demonstrated rule learning and entered a mode of high capability for learning of additional odors. We have previously reported that pyramidal neurons in olfactory (piriform) cortex from trained rats had reduced spike afterhyperpolarization (AHP) for 3 d after rule learning. In the present study we examined the mechanism underlying this long-lasting modification. The cholinergic agonist carbachol reduced both slow AHP and firing adaptation in neurons from pseudotrained rats, but had no effect on neurons from trained rats, suggesting pre-existing cholinergic effect. Intracellular application of the calcium chelator BAPTA abolished the difference in slow AHP and in adaptation between groups, suggesting that the difference resulted from reduction in the ACh-sensitive, Ca2+-dependent potassium current, IAHP. At the behavioral level, application of the muscarinic blocker scopolamine before each training session delayed rule learning but had no effect on further acquisition of odor memory. We suggest that intense ACh activity during rule learning enhances neuronal excitability in the piriform cortex by reducing IAHP and that the effect outlasts the stage of rule learning, so that ACh activity is not crucial for further odor learning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1385-1392
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetylcholine
  • Neuronal adaptation
  • Olfactory learning
  • Piriform cortex
  • Pyramidal neurons
  • Slow AHP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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