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Cortical acetylcholine is involved in key cognitive processes such as visuospatial attention. Dysfunction in the cholinergic system has been described in a number of neuropsychiatric disorders. Levels of brain acetylcholine can be pharmacologically manipulated, but it is not possible to directly measure it in vivo in humans. However, key parts of its biochemical cascade in neural tissue, such as choline, can be measured using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS). There is evidence that levels of choline may be an indirect but proportional measure of acetylcholine availability in brain tissue. In this study, we measured relative choline levels in the parietal cortex using functional (event-related) MRS (fMRS) during performance of a visuospatial attention task, with a modelling approach verified using simulated data. We describe a task-driven interaction effect on choline concentration, specifically driven by contralateral attention shifts. Our results suggest that choline MRS has the potential to serve as a proxy of brain acetylcholine function in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0171338
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Feb 2017

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