Acetylcholine and social memory

Social memory, meaning the capacity of an individual to recognize a conspecific, is fundamental for social species survival and is altered in several neurophsychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia, bipolar and autism spectrum disorders.

Although is known that the hippocampus is a brain region crucial for social memory, the mechanisms behind are virtually unknown. Hippocampal neuron activity is strongly controlled by acetylcholine, released from the terminals of cholinergic neurons localized in the medial septum.The aim of this study was to determine a possible involvement of acetylcholine in social memory. In particular, using a multidisciplinary approach to silence cholinergic neurons we demonstrated that the inhibition of cholinergic neuron activity during social interaction impairs the social recognition. This effect is mediated by nicotinic acetylcholine receptors localized in the hippocampus.

This study paves the way to future therapeutic applications, that by targeting nicotinic receptors can rescue or ameliorate the conditions of patients affected by neuropsychiatric disorders charcterized by an altered social memory, with a huge impact on their daily life.