PET Imaging of Perceptual Learning-Induced Changes in the Aged Rodent Cholinergic System

Front Neurosci. 2020 Jan 21;13:1438. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.01438. eCollection 2019.


The cholinergic system enhances attention and gates plasticity, making it a major regulator of adult learning. With aging, however, progressive degeneration of the cholinergic system impairs both the acquisition of new skills and functional recovery following neurological injury. Although cognitive training and perceptual learning have been shown to enhance auditory cortical processing, their specific impact on the cholinergic system remains unknown. Here we used [18F]FEOBV, a positron emission tomography (PET) radioligand that selectively binds to the vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT), as a proxy to assess whether training on a perceptual task results in increased cholinergic neurotransmission. We show for the first time that perceptual learning is associated with region-specific changes in cholinergic neurotransmission, as detected by [18F]FEOBV PET imaging and corroborated with immunohistochemistry.

Keywords: [18F]FEOBV; aging; auditory cortex; choline acetyltransferase (ChAT); operant training; positron emission tomography; somatostatin; vesicular acetylcholine transporter (VAChT).