Electrophysiological Studies of the Functions of the Nucleus Basalis in Primates

  • Russell T. Richardson
  • Mahlon R. DeLong
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 295)


For nearly two decades, studies of the activity of nucleus basalis neurons in primates have provided insights to the possible functions of this brain structure. In 1971, DeLong noted that many basalis neurons respond vigorously when an animal receives a water reward in an operant conditioning task. Since the mid-1970’s. Rolls and associates have studied basal forebrain neurons that respond selectively to the sight of food or to stimuli associated with food (Mora et al., 1976; Rolls et al., 1979; Wilson and Rolls, 1990). They have suggested that these neurons may be related to feeding and, more recently, to mnemonic processes. Other basalis neurons have response patterns that are somewhat similar to those of neighboring movement-related pallidal neurons, suggesting that the nucleus basalis may be related to basal ganglia function (Mitchell et al., 1987a,b). Subsequent studies from our laboratory have focused broadly on the entire nucleus basalis in an attempt to identify the processes in which it may be directly involved.


Basal Forebrain Delay Period Aversive Stimulus Nucleus Basalis Basalis Neuron 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Buzsaki, G., and Gage, F.H., 1990, Role of the basal forebrain cholinergic system in cortical activation and arousal, in: “Activation to Acquisition: Functional Aspects of the Basal Forebrain Cholinergic System,” R.T. Richardson, ed., Birkhauser, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  2. Collerton, D., 1986, Cholinergic function and intellectual decline in Alzheimer’s disease, Neurosci., 19:1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Corbetta, M., Miezin, F.M., Dobmeyer, S., Shulman, G. and Petersen, S.E., 1990, Attentional modulation of neural processing of shape, color, and velocity in humans. Science. 248:1556.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. DeLong, M.R., 1971, Activity of pallidal neurons during movement, J. Neurophvsiol., 34:414.Google Scholar
  5. Detari, L. and Vanderwolf, C.H., 1987, Activity of identified cortically projecting and other basal forebrain neurones during large slow waves and cortical activation in anaesthatized rats. Brain Res., 437:1.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Kojima, S. and Goldman-Rakic, P.S., 1982, Delay-related activity of prefrontal neurons in rhesus monkeys performing delayed response. Brain Res., 248:43.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Mesulam, M., Mufson, E.J., Levey, A.I. and Wainer, B.H., 1983, Cholinergic innervation of cortex by the basal forebrain: Cytochemistry and cortical connections of the septal area, diagonal band nuclei, nucleus basalis (substantia immominata), and hypothalamus in the rhesus monkey, J. Comp. Neurol., 214:170.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Mitchell, S.J., Richardson, R.T., Baker, F.H. and DeLong, M.R., 1987a, The primate nucleus basalis of Meynert: Neuronal activity related to a visuomotor tracking task, Exp,Brain Res., 68:506.Google Scholar
  9. Mitchell, S.J., Richardson, R.T., Baker, F.H. and DeLong, M.R., 1987b, The primate globus pallidus: Neuronal activity related to direction of movement, Exp. Brain Res., 68:491.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Mora, F., Rolls, E.T. and Burton, M.J., 1976, Modulation during learning of the responses of neurons in the lateral hypothalamus to the sight of food, Exp. Neurol., 53:508.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Niki, H. and Watanabe, M., 1976, Prefrontal unit activity and delayed response. Relation to cue location versus direction of response. Brain Res., 105:79.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Price, J.L., and Carnes, K.M., 1990, Input/output relations of the magnocellular nuclei of the basal forebrain, in: “Activation to Acquisition: Functional Aspects of the Basal Forebrain Cholinergic System,” R.T. Richardson, ed., Birkhauser, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  13. Richardson, R.T. and DeLong, M.R., 1986, Nucleus basalis of Meynert neuronal activity during a delayed response task in monkey. Brain Res., 399:364.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Richardson, R.T., Mitchell, S.J., Baker, F.H., and DeLong, M.R., 1988, Responses of nucleus basalis of Meynert neurons in behaving monkeys, in: “Cellular Mechanisms of Conditioning and Behavioral Plasticity,” C.D. Woody, D.L. Alkon, and J.L. McGaugh, eds., Plenum Publishing Corp, New York. p. 161.Google Scholar
  15. Richardson, R.T. and DeLong, M.R., 1990a, Responses of primate nucleus basalis neurons related to appetitiveness, aversiveness, and arousal, Soc. Neurosci. Abstr., 16:Google Scholar
  16. Richardson, R.T. and DeLong, M.R., 1990b, Context dependent responses of primate nucleus basalis neurons in a go/no-go task, J. Neurosci., 10:2528.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Richardson, R.T., and DeLong, M.R., 1990c, Functional implications of tonic and phasic activity changes in nucleus basalis neurons, in: “Activation to Acquisition: Functional Aspects of the Basal Forebrain Cholinergic System,” R.T. Richardson, ed., Birkhauser, Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  18. Richardson, R.T., and DeLong, M.R., 1990d, Responses of primate nucleus basalis neurons to water rewards and related stimuli, in: “Brain Cholinergic Systems,” M. Steriade, and D. Biesold, eds., Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  19. Rigdon, G.C. and Pirch, J.H., 1986, Nucleus basalis involvement in conditioned neuronal responses in the rat frontal cortex, J. Neurosci., 6:2535.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Rolls, E.T., Sanghera, M.K. and Roper-Hall, A., 1979, The latency of activation of neurones in the lateral hypothalamus and substantia innominata during feeding in the monkey. Brain Res., 164:121.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Smith, G., 1988, Animal models of Alzheimer’s disease: experimental cholinergic denervation. Brain Res. Rev., 13:103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Steriade, M., Ropert, N., Kitsikis, A., and Oakson, G., 1980, Ascending activating neuronal networks in midbrain reticular core and related rostral systems, in: “The Reticular Formation Revisted,” J.A. Hobson, and M.A.B. Brazier, eds., Raven Press, New York. p. 125.Google Scholar
  23. Steriade, M., 1984, The excitatory-inhibitory response sequence in thalamic and neocortical cells: State-related changes and regulatory systems, in: “Dynamic Aspects of Neocortical Function,” G.M. Edelman, W.E. Gall, and W.M. Cowan, eds., John Wiley & Sons, New York. p. 107.Google Scholar
  24. Szymusiak, R. and McGinty, D., 1989, Sleep-waking discharge of basal forebrain projection neurons in cats. Brain Res. Bull., 22:423.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Watanabe, T. and Niki, H., 1990, Hippocampal unit activity and delayed response in monkey. Brain Res., 325:241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wilson, F.A.W. and Rolls, E.T., 1990, Neuronal responses related to reinforcement in the primate basal forebrain. Brain Res., 509:213.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Russell T. Richardson
    • 1
  • Mahlon R. DeLong
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations