Sexually dimorphic effects of hippocampal cholinergic deafferentation in rats.

Neuroscience Program, Department of Psychology, Harvard University, William James Hall, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
European Journal of Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 3.75). 01/2005; 20(11):3041-53. DOI: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2004.03739.x
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To determine whether the basal forebrain-hippocampal cholinergic system supports sexually dimorphic functionality, male and female Long-Evans rats were given either selective medial septum/vertical limb of the diagonal band (MS/VDB) cholinergic lesions using the neurotoxin 192 IgG-saporin or a control surgery and then postoperatively tested in a set of standard spatial learning tasks in the Morris water maze. Lesions were highly specific and effective as confirmed by both choline acetyltransferase/parvalbumin immunostaining and acetylcholinesterase histochemistry. Female controls performed worse than male controls in place learning and MS/VDB lesions failed to impair spatial learning in male rats, both consistent with previous findings. In female rats, MS/VDB cholinergic lesions facilitated spatial reference learning. A subsequent test of learning strategy in the water maze revealed a female bias for a response, relative to a spatial, strategy; MS/VDB cholinergic lesions enhanced the use of a spatial strategy in both sexes, but only significantly so in males. Together, these results indicate a sexually dimorphic function associated with MS/VDB-hippocampal cholinergic inputs. In female rats, these neurons appear to support sex-specific spatial learning processes.