Rivastigmine antagonizes deficits in prepulse inhibition induced by selective immunolesioning of cholinergic neurons in nucleus basalis magnocellularis

M. Ballmaier, F. Casamenti, C. Scali, R. Mazzoncini, M. Zoli, G. Pepeu, P. F. Spano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Impairments of cortical cholinergic inputs from the nucleus basalis magnocellularis fundamentally alter information processing and attentional function, thereby advancing the severity of psychopathology in major neuropsychiatric disorders. It was previously shown in adult rats that bilateral 192 IgG saporin-induced selective immunolesioning of the cholinergic neurons in the nucleus basalis produces pronounced and long-lasting deficits in sensorimotor gating measured by prepulse inhibition of the startle reflex. This behavioral paradigm is considered a valid model of sensorimotor gating deficits in the psychotic spectrum and efforts to analyze the significance of the cholinergic basal forebrain in this context are of great interest. In the present study the predictive value of the selective cholinergic immunolesioning model was tested by examining the ability of the cholinesterase inhibitor rivastigmine to restore prepulse inhibition in immunolesioned rats. We report here a pronounced restoring effect of acute (0.75 or 1.5 mg/kg s.c.) as well as repeated (0.75 mg/kg s.c. b.i.d., for 10 days) treatment with rivastigmine in this model of disrupted prepulse inhibition. Intra-nucleus basalis magnocellularis infusions of 192 IgG saporin resulted in extensive loss of basal-cortical cholinergic neurons as shown by the marked decrease in basal telencephalic choline acetyltransferase immunopositive neurons and cortical choline acetyltransferase activity. In this condition, rivastigmine was found to significantly increase cortical acetylcholine extracellular levels in lesioned animals measured by in vivo microdialysis. Taken together, our results strengthen the proposal that the nucleus basalis represents a critical station of the startle gating circuitry. In addition, our findings strongly indicate that even after dramatic decrease of cholinergic neurons, inhibition of acetylcholinesterase restores the cholinergic synaptic function to a point approaching normalization of experimentally induced psychopathology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-98
Number of pages8
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 18 2002


  • Acetylcholinesterase inhibitor
  • Cholinergic basal forebrain
  • Immunotoxin
  • Psychosis
  • Sensorimotor gating

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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