Basal Forebrain Cholinergic-Auditory Cortical Network: Primary Versus Nonprimary Auditory Cortical Areas

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Acetylcholine (ACh) release in the cortex is critical for learning, memory, attention, and plasticity. Here, we explore the cholinergic and noncholinergic projections from the basal forebrain (BF) to the auditory cortex using classical retrograde and monosynaptic viral tracers deposited in electrophysiologically identified regions of the auditory cortex. Cholinergic input to both primary (A1) and nonprimary auditory cortical (belt) areas originates in a restricted area in the caudal BF within the globus pallidus (GP) and in the dorsal part of the substantia innominata (SId). On the other hand, we found significant differences in the proportions of cholinergic and noncholinergic projection neurons to primary and nonprimary auditory areas. Inputs to A1 projecting cholinergic neurons were restricted to the GP, caudate-putamen, and the medial part of the medial geniculate body, including the posterior intralaminar thalamic group. In addition to these areas, afferents to belt-projecting cholinergic neurons originated from broader areas, including the ventral secondary auditory cortex, insular cortex, secondary somatosensory cortex, and the central amygdaloid nucleus. These findings support a specific BF projection pattern to auditory cortical areas. Additionally, these findings point to potential functional differences in how ACh release may be regulated in the A1 and auditory belt areas.

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