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Modulation-Specific and Laminar-Dependent Effects of Acetylcholine on Visual Responses in the Rat Primary Visual Cortex

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068430
  • Research Article
  • Biology
  • Anatomy And Physiology
  • Electrophysiology
  • Biochemistry
  • Neurochemistry
  • Computational Biology
  • Computational Neuroscience
  • Sensory Systems
  • Model Organisms
  • Animal Models
  • Rat
  • Neuroscience
  • Neurophysiology
  • Medicine
  • Biology
  • Medicine


Acetylcholine (ACh) is secreted from cholinergic neurons in the basal forebrain to regions throughout the cerebral cortex, including the primary visual cortex (V1), and influences neuronal activities across all six layers via a form of diffuse extrasynaptic modulation termed volume transmission. To understand this effect in V1, we performed extracellular multi-point recordings of neuronal responses to drifting sinusoidal grating stimuli from the cortical layers of V1 in anesthetized rats and examined the modulatory effects of topically administered ACh. ACh facilitated or suppressed the visual responses of individual cells with a laminar bias: response suppression prevailed in layers 2/3, whereas response facilitation prevailed in layer 5. ACh effects on the stimulus contrast-response function showed that ACh changes the response gain upward or downward in facilitated or suppressed cells, respectively. Next, ACh effects on the signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio and the grating-phase information were tested. The grating-phase information was calculated as the F1/F0 ratio, which represents the amount of temporal response modulation at the fundamental frequency (F1) of a drifting grating relative to the mean evoked response (F0). In facilitated cells, ACh improved the S/N ratio, while in suppressed cells it enhanced the F1/F0 ratio without any concurrent reduction in the S/N ratio. These effects were predominantly observed in regular-spiking cells, but not in fast-spiking cells. Electrophysiological and histological findings suggest that ACh promotes the signaling of grating-phase information to higher-order areas by a suppressive effect on supragranular layers and enhances feedback signals with a high S/N ratio to subcortical areas by a facilitatory effect on infragranular layers. Thus, ACh distinctly and finely controls visual information processing in a manner that is specific for the modulation and cell type and is also laminar dependent.

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