Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit
Alexandra House, 17 Queen Square, LONDON, WC1N 3AR, UK, Tel: +44 (0) 20 7679 1176, Fax +44 (0) 20 7679 1173,



B10 Seminar Room, Alexandra House, 17 Queen Square
London, WC1N 3AR

Supported by The Gatsby Foundation

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Cholinergic Modulation of Learning and Attention in the Human Brain: Insights from Pharmacological fMRI Studies

Christiane Thiel
Institute of Medicine, Research Centre JŁelich, Germany

The manipulation of neurotransmitter systems in combination with cognitive tasks can be used to study the role of a neurotransmitter in relation to particular behaviours. Pharmacological challenges have been successfully used for decades in animal and man to study the neurochemistry of behaviour and develop drugs to treat impaired cognitive functions. In recent years, neuroimaging techniques such as PET and fMRI have provided a mean of investigating cerebral correlates of cognitive processes in the human brain. The combination of pharmacological challenges with a cognitive tasks in the context of neuroimaging is a powerful approach to directly assess pharmacological modulation of task induced cerebral activations The talk will introduce the combination of fMRI and psychopharmacology as a tool to study neurochemical modulation of human brain function (1,2). I will illustrate this approach with studies on i) cholinergic modulation of  conditioning-related responses in auditory cortex which suggest that ACh can modulate early levels of stimulus processing (3,4) and ii) cholinergic modulation of visuospatial attention in a cued target detection task which indicate that nicotine modulates parietal and frontal activity.