Acetylcholine modulation of neural systems involved in learning and memory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

393 Scopus citations


Extensive evidence supports the view that cholinergic mechanisms modulate learning and memory formation. This paper reviews evidence for cholinergic regulation of multiple memory systems, noting that manipulations of cholinergic functions in many neural systems can enhance or impair memory for tasks generally associated with those neural systems. While parallel memory systems can be identified by combining lesions with carefully crafted tasks, most - if not all - tasks require the combinatorial participation of multiple neural systems. This paper offers the hypothesis that the magnitude of acetylcholine (ACh) release in different neural systems may regulate the relative contributions of these systems to learning. Recent studies of ACh release, obtained with in vivo microdialysis samples during training, together with direct injections of cholinergic drugs into different neural systems, provide evidence that release of ACh is important in engaging these systems during learning, and that the extent to which the systems are engaged is associated with individual differences in learning and memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)194-210
Number of pages17
JournalNeurobiology of Learning and Memory
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetylcholine
  • Amygdala
  • Hippocampus
  • Learning
  • Memory
  • Microdialysis
  • Multiple memory systems
  • Septohippocampal
  • Spatial working memory
  • Striatum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Acetylcholine modulation of neural systems involved in learning and memory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this