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  • Tiffany Bell
    University of Reading
  • Michael Lindner
    University of Reading
  • Paul Gerald Mullins
    School of Psychology, Bangor University
  • Anastasia Christakou
    University of Reading

Animal studies have shown that acetylcholine (ACh) levels in the dorsal striatum play a role in reversal learning. However, this has not been studied in humans due to a lack of appropriate non-invasive techniques. Proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1 H-MRS) can be used to measure metabolite levels in humans in vivo. Although it cannot be used to study ACh directly, 1 H-MRS can be used to study choline, an ACh precursor which is linked to activity-dependent ACh release. The aim of this study was to use functional-1 H-MRS (fMRS) to measure changes in choline levels in the human dorsal striatum during performance of a probabilistic reversal learning task. We demonstrate a task-dependent decrease in choline, specifically during reversal, but not initial, learning. We interpret this to reflect a sustained increase in ACh levels, which is in line with findings from the animal literature. This task-dependent change was specific to choline and was not observed in control metabolites. These findings provide support for the use of fMRS in the in vivo study of the human cholinergic system. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.


  • Journal Article, choline, Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Reversal Learning, Striatum
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1184-1193
JournalEuropean Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number10
Early online date19 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2018
Externally publishedYes

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