October 15, 2006
Acetylcholine Boosts Memory Formation In Rats

By stimulating acetylcholine neurotransmitter release scientists were able to enhance how well rats remembered lessons from a training session.

The levels of a chemical released by the brain determine how detailed a memory will later be, according to researchers at UC Irvine.

The neurotransmitter acetylcholine, a brain chemical already established as being crucial for learning and memory, appears to be the key to adding details to a memory. In a study with rats, Norman Weinberger, research professor of neurobiology and behavior, and colleagues determined that a higher level of acetylcholine during a learning task correlated with more details of the experience being remembered. The results are the first to tie levels of acetylcholine to memory specificity and could have implications in the study and treatment of memory-related disorders.

The findings appear in the November issue of the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory.

“This is the first time that direct stimulation of a brain region has controlled the amount of detail in a memory,” said Weinberger, a fellow at UCI’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory. “While it is likely that the brain uses a number of mechanisms to store specific details, our work shows that the level of acetylcholine appears to be a key part of that process.”

In their experiments, the researchers exposed rats to tones of various frequencies. During some of the trials, they paired one tone with stimulation of a section of the rats’ brains known as the nucleus basalis, which relays commands to the auditory cortex by secreting acetylcholine. During some experiments, the stimulation of the nucleus basalis was weak, whereas in other animals the stimulation was stronger. When the tones were replayed the next day, the scientists could measure how well they remembered the various frequencies by measuring changes in their respiration rates.

The results showed that a weak activation of the nucleus basalis, which resulted in a small amount of acetylcholine being released, did lead the rats to remember the tones but not specific frequencies. However, when the stimulation was greater (leading to the higher level of acetylcholine release), the rats also remembered the specific frequencies.

You can take choline tablets to boost your brain acetylcholine. But acetylcholine released from nerve cells enhanced memory formation. Will choline boost acetylcholine release? My own experience with choline supplements is that they make me feel depressed. Your mileage may vary.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 October 15 09:24 PM  Brain Memory

michael vassar said at October 16, 2006 6:51 AM:

Maybe it's better to use acetylcholine esterase inhibiters, which are already used for alzheimers and which are available in herbal form as huperzine a? Any data anyone?

Wolf-Dog said at October 16, 2006 10:59 PM:

My personal experience is that Huperzine A works extremely well. The only problem is that it causes gastrointestinal disturbances, and so it is impossible to use this natural supplement for too long. Maybe before an intense study effort, you can get away for a while. Also, when I divide the capsule into 2 pieces, and take less, there is much less stomach and instestinal problems.

DMAE and Centrophenoxine are also good acetly-choline sources, better than choline, but their side-effect is muscle stiffness if you use these for too long. The latter works even better than the DMAE. If combined with aniracetam, then these work even better.

Dr. David L. Biles said at October 9, 2007 8:05 AM:

There seems to be a disconnect between acetylcholine helping with memory
stimulating the vestibular apparatus producing acetylcholine.

My understanding is:

In stimulating the vestibular apparatus (inner ear mechanism) the frontal lobe of the brain is triggered to produce acetylcholine. To stimulate the vestibular apparatus the person should swing, hang upside down, roll, spin etc. This will also improve the balance mechanism and improve balance.

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