Auditory working memory: contributions of lateral prefrontal cortex and acetylcholine in non-human primates

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Plakke Anderson, Bethany Joy
University of Iowa
acetylcholine; area 46; delayed matching-to-sample; dorsolateral PFC; short-term memory; ventrolateral PFC; Psychology
thesis / dissertation description
Traditionally, working memory and its neural underpinnings have been studied in the visual domain. A rich and diverse amount of research has investigated the lateral prefrontal cortex (lPFC) as a primary area for visual working memory, while another line of research has found the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh) to be involved. This dissertation used auditory cues and found similar patterns of activity for processing auditory working memory information within a task compared to visual working memory processes. The first two experimental chapters demonstrated that the cholinergic system is involved in auditory working memory in a comparable fashion to its role in visual working memory. In chapter 2, blocking ACh impaired performance on an auditory working memory task in a dose dependent manner. Chapter 3 investigated the specificity of the effect of blocking ACh by administering an ACh agonist (physostigmine) at the same time as an ACh antagonist (scopolamine). When both drugs were administered together performance on the delayed matching-to-sample task (DMTS) task improved compared to performance on scopolamine alone. These results support the hypothesis that ACh is involved in auditory working memory.Chapter 4 investigated the neural correlates of auditory working memory in area 46 and found that this region of the lPFC contains neurons that are responsive to auditory working memory components in a very similar way to how it this region encodes information during visual working memory tasks. Neurons in the lPFC are responsive to visual or auditory cues, the delay portion of tasks, the wait time (i.e. decision making period), response, and reward times. This type of coding provides support for the theories that position the lPFC as a key player in recognition and working memory regardless of modality.