Coordinated brain signal release during memory task!

Coordinated brain signal release during memory task!

How does heightened attention improve our mental capacity? This is the question tackled by new research published in the journal Cell Reports, which reveals a chemical signal released across the brain in response to attention demanding or arousing situations.

The new discoveries indicate how current drugs used in the treatment of Alzheimer's, designed to boost this chemical signal, counter the symptoms of dementia. The results could also lead to new ways of enhancing cognitive function to counteract the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer's and schizophrenia, as well as enhancing memory in healthy people.

Using electrochemical biosensors chronically implanted in mice authors found that tonic levels of acetylcholine release were coordinated between the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus and maximal during training on a rewarded working memory task.

Tonic release increased during REM sleep but was contingent on subsequent wakefulness. In contrast, coordinated phasic acetylcholine release occurred only during the memory task and was strongly localized to reward delivery areas without being contingent on trial outcome. 

These results show that coordinated acetylcholine release between the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus is associated with reward and arousal on distinct timescales, providing dual mechanisms to support learned behavior acquisition during cognitive task performance.