Cholinergic modulation of response properties and orientation tuning of neurons in primary visual cortex of anaesthetized Marmoset monkeys

Eur J Neurosci. 2006 Jul;24(1):314-28. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2006.04882.x.


Cortical processing is strongly influenced by the actions of neuromodulators such as acetylcholine (ACh). Early studies in anaesthetized cats argued that acetylcholine can cause a sharpening of orientation tuning functions and an improvement of the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of neuronal responses in primary visual cortex (V1). Recent in vitro studies have demonstrated that acetylcholine reduces the efficacy of feedback and intracortical connections via the activation of muscarinic receptors, and increases the efficacy of feed-forward connections via the activation of nicotinic receptors. If orientation tuning is mediated or enhanced by intracortical connections, high levels of acetylcholine should diminish orientation tuning. Here we investigate the effects of acetylcholine on orientation tuning and neuronal responsiveness in anaesthetized marmoset monkeys. We found that acetylcholine caused a broadening of the orientation tuning in the majority of cells, while tuning functions became sharper in only a minority of cells. Moreover, acetylcholine generally facilitated neuronal responses, but neither improved signal-to-noise ratio, nor reduced trial-to-trial firing rate variance systematically. Acetylcholine did however, reduce variability of spike occurrences within spike trains. We discuss these findings in the context of dynamic control of feed-forward and lateral/feedback connectivity by acetylcholine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Acetylcholine / physiology*
  • Action Potentials
  • Anesthesia
  • Animals
  • Callithrix
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Normal Distribution
  • Orientation*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / drug effects


  • Acetylcholine