Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Everling, Stefan


The ability to flexibly react to our dynamic environment is a cardinal component of cognition and our human identity. Millions across the globe are affected by disorders of cognition, affecting their ability to live independently. Prefrontal cortex is required for optimal cognitive functioning, but its circuitry is often disrupted in conditions of impaired cognition. In addition, the cholinergic system is vital to optimal executive function, but this is disrupted in a number of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. The actions of cholinergic receptors were explored in this project with local application of cholinergic compounds onto prefrontal neurons as rhesus monkeys performed a rule-based saccadic task that requires working memory maintenance. The antisaccade task is a useful probe of prefrontal cortex function that elicits errors in neuropsychiatric conditions. Some prefrontal neurons respond to different task aspects of the antisaccade task, e.g., discharging preferentially for one task rule over the other (pro- or antisaccades), and are thought to be involved in the circuitry for correct behavioural responses. Chapter 2 explored the effect of general stimulation of cholinergic receptors on rhesus PFC neuronal activity during antisaccade performance. In Chapter 3, newly developed cholinergic receptor subtype-specific compounds were utilized to examine the actions of muscarinic M1 receptor stimulation on prefrontal activity. Cortical oscillations are emerging as an important aspect of cognitive circuitry, such as during working memory maintenance. Chapter 4 examined the influence of local cholinergic receptor stimulation and blockade on the power of local field potential in different frequency bands. This project characterized the role of cholinergic receptors in prefrontal cortical neurons that were actively involved in cognitive circuitry. This and future work on the cholinergic influence on prefrontal cortex will provide insights into the altered cognitive functioning in Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia, which are also affected by disrupted cholinergic systems.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.