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    Corticopetal acetylcholine (ACh) is released transiently from the nucleus basalis of Meynert (NBM) into the cortical layers and is associated with top-down attention. Recent experimental data suggest that this release of ACh disinhibits layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons (PYRs) via muscarinic presynaptic effects on inhibitory synapses. Together with other possible presynaptic cholinergic effects on excitatory synapses, this may result in dynamic and temporal modifications of synapses associated with top-down attention. However, the system-level consequences and cognitive relevance of such disinhibitions are poorly understood. Herein, we propose a theoretical possibility that such transient modifications of connectivity associated with ACh release, in addition to top-down glutamatergic input, may provide a neural mechanism for the temporal reactivation of attractors as neural correlates of memories. With baseline levels of ACh, the brain returns to quasi-attractor states, exhibiting transitive dynamics between several intrinsic internal states. This suggests that top-down attention may cause the attention-induced deformations between two types of attractor landscapes: the quasi-attractor landscape (Q-landscape, present under low-ACh, non-attentional conditions) and the attractor landscape (A-landscape, present under high-ACh, top-down attentional conditions). We present a conceptual computational model based on experimental knowledge of the structure of PYRs and interneurons (INs) in cortical layers 1 and 2/3 and discuss the possible physiological implications of our results.


    Takashi Kanamaru, Hiroshi Fujii, Kazuyuki Aihara. Deformation of attractor landscape via cholinergic presynaptic modulations: a computational study using a phase neuron model. PloS one. 2013;8(1):e53854

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    PMID: 23326520

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