Intermittent stimulation in the nucleus basalis of meynert improves sustained attention in rhesus monkeys

Ruifeng Liu, Jonathan Crawford, Patrick M. Callahan, Alvin V. Terry, Christos Constantinidis, David T. Blake

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Sustained attention is essential in important behaviors in daily life. Many neuropsychiatric disorders are characterized by a compromised ability to sustain attention, making this cognitive domain an important therapeutic target. In this study, we tested a novel method of improving sustained attention. Monkeys were engaged in a continuous performance task (CPT) while the nucleus basalis of Meynert (NB), the main source of cholinergic innervation of the neocortex, was stimulated. Intermittent NB stimulation improved the animals' performance by increasing the hit rate and decreasing the false alarm rate. Administration of the cholinesterase inhibitor donepezil or the muscarinic antagonist scopolamine alone impaired performance, whereas the nicotinic antagonist mecamylamine alone improved performance. Applying NB stimulation while mecamylamine or donepezil were administered impaired CPT performance. Methylphenidate, a monoaminergic psychostimulant, was applied in conjunction with intermittent stimulation as a negative control, as it does not directly modulate cholinergic output. Methylphenidate also improved performance, and it produced further improvement when combined with NB stimulation. The additive effect of the combination suggested NB stimulation altered behavior independently from methylphenidate effects. We conclude that basal forebrain projections contribute to sustained attention, and that intermittent NB stimulation is an effective way of improving performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-210
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Jul 15 2018


  • Acetylcholine
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Nonhuman primate
  • Nucleus basalis of meynert
  • Sustained attention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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