Nucleus Basalis Magnocellularis and Attention: Effects of Muscimol Infusions

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The basal forebrain is important in cognitive processing. Most studies have focused on the importance of this area in mnemonic processing. However, the nucleus basalis magnocellularis (NBM), which is a major component of the basal forebrain, may also be involved in attentional processes. Attention can influence the sensitivity of perceptual processes, as assessed by discriminability, or the selection of response strategies, as assessed by bias. This experiment examined whether temporary inactivation of the NBM, using the GABA agonist muscimol, would interfere with attention. Each rat was tested in a 2-choice reaction time (RT) task in which stimulus frequency was varied. RT and error rate increased, and discriminability decreased following muscimol infusions into the NBM. Bias was unchanged. The pattern of results provides evidence that the NBM is important in attention, and this influence of the NBM acts primarily on perceptual aspects of attention.

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