Cell class-specific modulation of attentional signals by acetylcholine in macaque frontal eye field

Miguel Dasilva, Christian Brandt, Sascha Gotthardt, Marc Alwin Gieselmann, Claudia Distler, Alexander Thiele*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Attention is critical to high-level cognition, and attentional deficits are a hallmark of cognitive dysfunction. A key transmitter for attentional control is acetylcholine, but its cellular actions in attention-controlling areas remain poorly understood. Here we delineate how muscarinic and nicotinic receptors affect basic neuronal excitability and attentional control signals in different cell types in macaque frontal eye field. We found that broad spiking and narrow spiking cells both require muscarinic and nicotinic receptors for normal excitability, thereby affecting ongoing or stimulus-driven activity. Attentional control signals depended on muscarinic, not nicotinic receptors in broad spiking cells, while they depended on both muscarinic and nicotinic receptors in narrow spiking cells. Cluster analysis revealed that muscarinic and nicotinic effects on attentional control signals were highly selective even for different subclasses of narrow spiking cells and of broad spiking cells. These results demonstrate that cholinergic receptors are critical to establish attentional control signals in the frontal eye field in a cell type-specific manner.

Original languageEnglish
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS)
Issue number40
Pages (from-to)20180-20189
Publication statusPublished - 1. Oct 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Acetylcholine
  • Attention
  • Frontal cortex


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