Distinct roles of bulbar muscarinic and nicotinic receptors in olfactory discrimination learning

The Journal of Neuroscience : the Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience
Sasha DevoreChristiane Linster


The olfactory bulb (OB) and piriform cortex receive dense cholinergic projections from the basal forebrain. Cholinergic modulation within the piriform cortex has long been proposed to serve important functions in olfactory learning and memory. We here investigate how olfactory discrimination learning is regulated by cholinergic modulation of the OB inputs to the piriform cortex. We examined rats' performance on a two-alternative choice odor discrimination task following local, bilateral blockade of cholinergic nicotinic and/or muscarinic receptors in the OB. Results demonstrate that acquisition, but not recall, of novel discrimination problems is impaired following blockade of OB cholinergic receptors, although the relative contribution of muscarinic and nicotinic receptors depends on task difficulty. Blocking muscarinic receptors impairs learning for nearly all odor sets, whereas blocking nicotinic receptors only affects performance for perceptually similar odors. This pattern of behavioral effects is consistent with predictions from a model of cholinergic modulation in the OB and piriform cortex (de Almeida et al., 2013). Model simulations suggest that muscarinic and nicotinic receptors may serve complementary roles in regula...Continue Reading


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