Potential roles of cholinergic modulation in the neural coding of location and movement speed

J Physiol Paris. 2016 Sep;110(1-2):52-64. doi: 10.1016/j.jphysparis.2016.09.002. Epub 2016 Sep 24.


Behavioral data suggest that cholinergic modulation may play a role in certain aspects of spatial memory, and neurophysiological data demonstrate neurons that fire in response to spatial dimensions, including grid cells and place cells that respond on the basis of location and running speed. These neurons show firing responses that depend upon the visual configuration of the environment, due to coding in visually-responsive regions of the neocortex. This review focuses on the physiological effects of acetylcholine that may influence the sensory coding of spatial dimensions relevant to behavior. In particular, the local circuit effects of acetylcholine within the cortex regulate the influence of sensory input relative to internal memory representations via presynaptic inhibition of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission, and the modulation of intrinsic currents in cortical excitatory and inhibitory neurons. In addition, circuit effects of acetylcholine regulate the dynamics of cortical circuits including oscillations at theta and gamma frequencies. These effects of acetylcholine on local circuits and network dynamics could underlie the role of acetylcholine in coding of spatial information for the performance of spatial memory tasks.

Keywords: Basal forebrain; Entorhinal cortex; Grid cells; Medial septum; Place cells; Spatial navigation; Theta rhythm.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Memory / physiology
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Receptors, Cholinergic / metabolism*
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology*


  • Receptors, Cholinergic
  • Acetylcholine