Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors act in synergy to facilitate learning and memory

Katherine Leaderbrand, Helen J. Chen, Kevin A. Corcoran, Anita L. Guedea, Vladimir Jovasevic, Jurgen Wess, Jelena Radulovic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Understanding how episodic memories are formed and retrieved is necessary if we are to treat disorders in which they malfunction. Muscarinic acetylcholine receptors (mAChR) in the hippocampus and cortex underlie memory formation, but there is conflicting evidence regarding their role in memory retrieval. Additionally, there is no consensus on which mAChR subtypes are critical for memory processing. Using pharmacological and genetic approaches, we found that (1) encoding and retrieval of contextual memory requires mAChR in the dorsal hippocampus (DH) and retrosplenial cortex (RSC), (2) memory formation requires hippocampal M3 and cooperative activity of RSC M1 and M3, and (3) memory retrieval is more impaired by inactivation of multiple M1-M4 mAChR in DH or RSC than inactivation of individual receptor subtypes. Contrary to the view that acetylcholine supports learning but is detrimental to memory retrieval, we found that coactivation of multiple mAChR is required for retrieval of both recently and remotely acquired context memories. Manipulations with higher receptor specificity were generally less potent than manipulations targeting multiple receptor subtypes, suggesting that mAChR act in synergy to regulate memory processes. These findings provide unique insight into the development of therapies for amnestic symptoms, suggesting that broadly acting, rather than receptor-specific, mAchR agonists and positive allosteric modulators may be the most effective therapeutic approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-638
Number of pages8
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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