Cholinergic Enhancement and Increased Selectivity of Perceptual Processing During Working Memory

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Science  22 Dec 2000:
Vol. 290, Issue 5500, pp. 2315-2319
DOI: 10.1126/science.290.5500.2315

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Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we investigated the mechanism by which cholinergic enhancement improves working memory. We studied the effect of the cholinesterase inhibitor physostigmine on subcomponents of this complex function. Cholinergic enhancement increased the selectivity of neural responses in extrastriate cortices during visual working memory, particularly during encoding. It also increased the participation of ventral extrastriate cortex during memory maintenance and decreased the participation of anterior prefrontal cortex. These results indicate that cholinergic enhancement improves memory performance by augmenting the selectivity of perceptual processing during encoding, thereby simplifying processing demands during memory maintenance and reducing the need for prefrontal participation.

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