Dissociation of cholinergic function in spatial and procedural learning in rats

Eva Von Roloff, Dominic V Harbaran, Jacques Micheau, B. Platt, G. Riedel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

59 Citations (Scopus)


The cholinergic system has long been known for its role in acquisition and retention of new information. Scopolamine, a muscarinic acetylcholine receptor antagonist impairs multiple memory systems, and this has promoted the notion that drug-induced side effects are responsible for diminished task execution rather than selective impairments on learning and memory per se. Here, we revisit this issue with the aim to dissociate the effects of scopolamine (0.2-1.0 mg/kg) on spatial learning in the water maze. Experiments 1 and 2 showed that acquisition of a reference memory paradigm with constant platform location is compromised by scopolamine independent of whether the animals are pretrained or not. Deficits were paralleled by drug induced side-effects on sensorimotor parameters. Experiment 3 explored the role of muscarinic receptors in acquisition of an episodic-like spatial delayed matching to position (DMTP) protocol, and scopolamine still caused a learning deficit and side-effects on sensorimotor performance. Rats extensively pretrained in the DMTP protocol with 30 s and 1 h delays over several months in experiment 4 and tested in a within-subject design under saline and scopolamine had no sensorimotor deficits, but spatial working memory remained compromised. Experiment 5 used the rising Atlantis platform in the DMTP paradigm. Intricate analysis of the amount of dwelling and its location revealed a clear deficit in spatial working memory induced by scopolamine, but there was no effect on sensorimotor or procedural task demands. Apart from the well-known contribution to sensorimotor and procedural learning, our findings provide compelling evidence for an important role of muscarinic acetylcholine receptor signaling in spatial episodic-like memory. (c) 2007 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)875-889
Number of pages15
Issue number3
Early online date6 Apr 2007
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2007


  • acetylcholine
  • spatial learning water maze
  • rat
  • scopolamine
  • procedural learning
  • nucleus basalis magnocellularis
  • long-term potentiation
  • Morris water maze
  • selective immunotoxic lesions
  • brain acetylcholine-release
  • nonmatching-to-sample
  • reaction-time-task
  • receptor blockade
  • strategy selection
  • place navigation


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