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Research study describes the role part of the brain plays in memory

larative memory.

This task depends on learning how to associate smells, a function that is commanded by a specific region of the brain, the nucleus basalis magnocellularis (NBM), which produces acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter that "transfers information" from one neurone to another through synapses). This chemical substance is essential in making the memory work correctly. The nucleus basalis magnocellularis equivalent in humans is the nucleus basalis Meynert. Precisely this is one of the regions of the brain that shown signs of degeneration among those who suffer from Alzheimer's (and who are often treated with drugs that help to produce acetylcholine).

The acetylcholine produced by the nucleus basalis is transferred to other regions of the brain, where it is "recognised" by receptor molecules. The research team examined the possibility of one part of the brain, the prelimbic prefrontal cortex, being linked to the social transmission of food preference. To do so, they applied a chemical compound to the experimental rats that neutralised the acetylcholine receptors (muscarinic cholinergic receptor) of this region. By blocking the receptor, the effect of the neurotransmitter was also neutralised and the changes in the animals' behaviour were observed.

The results demonstrated that the social transmission of food preference was clearly affected after neutralising the acetylcholine receptors. Researchers also verified that the effects were not due to other aspects that could alter the experiment, such as lack of olfactory perception, motivation or social interaction. The results therefore suggest that the prelimbic prefrontal cortex, via the use of acetylcholine, regulates cognitive operations (e.g. flexibility in behaviour, attention or strategic planning) that could be needed to correctly express social transmission of food preference, and therefore necessary for our declarative memory.


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Contact: Gemma Guillazo
Gemma.Guillazo@uab.es
34-935-812-543
Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
17-Jul-2007


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