The cholinergic basal forebrain system during development and its influence on cognitive processes: important questions and potential answers

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2003 Sep;27(4):401-11. doi: 10.1016/s0149-7634(03)00070-8.


This review seeks to address, though perhaps not answer fully, four important questions about the cholinergic basal forebrain (BF) system in developing mammals. First, what role does the cholinergic basal forebrain system play in the development of cognitive functions? Second, does the cholinergic BF system play a fundamentally similar role in development vs. adulthood? Third, does sexual dimorphism of the developing cholinergic BF system influence cognition differently in the two sexes? Finally, what role does the developing cholinergic BF system play in developmental disorders such as Down syndrome and Rett syndrome? Examples from the literature, primarily studies in mice and rats, are given in an attempt to answer these important questions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Attention / physiology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cholinergic Fibers / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Down Syndrome / etiology
  • Down Syndrome / metabolism
  • Down Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Escape Reaction
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prosencephalon* / embryology
  • Prosencephalon* / growth & development
  • Prosencephalon* / physiology
  • Rett Syndrome / etiology
  • Rett Syndrome / metabolism
  • Rett Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Spatial Behavior
  • Vocalization, Animal / physiology


  • Acetylcholine