Probing spatial inhomogeneity of cholinergic changes in cortical state in rat
by Nur, Tazima; Gautam, Shree Hari; Stenken, Julie A.; Shew, Woodrow L.
Acetylcholine (ACh) plays an essential role in cortical information processing. Cholinergic changes in cortical state can fundamentally change how the neurons encode sensory input and motor output. Traditionally, ACh distribution in cortex and associated changes in cortical state have been assumed to be spatially diffuse. However, recent studies demonstrate a more spatially inhomogeneous structure of cholinergic projections to cortex. Moreover, many experimental manipulations of ACh have been done at a single spatial location, which inevitably results in spatially non-uniform ACh distribution. Such non-uniform application of ACh across the spatial extent of a cortical microcircuit could have important impacts on how the firing of groups of neurons is coordinated, but this remains largely unknown. Here we describe a method for applying ACh at different spatial locations within a single cortical circuit and measuring the resulting differences in population neural activity. We use two microdialysis probes implanted at opposite ends of a microelectrode array in barrel cortex of anesthetized rats. As a demonstration of the method, we applied ACh or neostigmine in different spatial locations via the microdialysis probes while we concomitantly recorded neural activity at 32 locations with the microelectrode array. First, we show that cholinergic changes in cortical state can vary dramatically depending on where the ACh was applied. Second, we show that cholinergic changes in cortical state can vary dramatically depending on where the state-change is measured. These results suggests that previous work with single-site recordings or single-site ACh application should be interpreted with some caution, since the results could change for different spatial locations.