“The acetylcholine arousal system in the brain is needed for robust attention and working memory functions, but the receptor and cellular bases for its beneficial effects are poorly understood in the newly evolved primate brain. The current study found that cholinergic stimulation of nicotinic receptors comprised of α4 and β2 subunits (α4β2-nAChR) enhanced the firing of neurons in the primate prefrontal cortex that subserve top-down attentional control and working memory. α4β2-nAChR stimulation also protected neuronal responding from the detrimental effects of distracters presented during the delay epoch, when information is held in working memory. These results illuminate how acetylcholine strengthens higher cognition and help to explain why genetic insults to the α4 subunit weaken cognitive and attentional abilities.”
Sun Y, Yang Y, Galvin VC, Yang S, Arnsten AF and Wang M: Nicotinic α4β2 Cholinergic Receptor Influences on Dorsolateral Prefrontal Cortical Neuronal Firing during a Working Memory Task. J. Neurosci. 37(21): 5366-5377 (2017).