Cognitive deficits and altered cholinergic innervation in young adult male mice carrying a Parkinson's disease Lrrk2G2019S knockin mutation

Ayan Hussein, Alexander Tielemans, Mark G. Baxter, Deanna L. Benson, George W. Huntley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Impaired executive function is a common and debilitating non-motor symptom of idiopathic and hereditary Parkinson's disease (PD), but there is little understanding of the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms and circuits. The G2019S mutation in the kinase domain of leucine-rich repeat kinase 2 (LRRK2) greatly increases risk for late-onset PD, and non-manifesting LRRK2G2019S carriers can also exhibit early and significant cognitive impairment. Here, we subjected young adult male mice carrying a Lrrk2G2019S knockin mutation to touchscreen-based operant tasks that measure attention, goal-directed learning and cognitive flexibility, all of which rely on frontal-striatal connectivity and are strongly modulated by cholinergic innervation. In a visuospatial attention task, mutant mice exhibited significantly more omissions and longer response latencies than controls that could not be attributed to deficits in motivation, visual sensory perception per se or locomotion, thereby suggesting impairments in divided attention and/or action-selection as well as generally slower information processing speed. Pretreating mice with the acetylcholinesterase inhibitor donepezil normalized both higher omission rates and longer response latencies in the mutants, but did not affect any performance metric in controls. Strikingly, cholinergic fiber density in cortical areas PL/IL and DMS (dorsomedial striatum) was significantly sparser in mutants than in controls, while further behavioral interrogation of the mutants revealed significant impairments in action-outcome associations but preserved cognitive flexibility. These data suggest that the Lrrk2G2019S mutation negatively impacts cholinergic innervation anatomically and functionally by young adulthood, impairing corticostriatal network function in ways that may contribute to early PD-associated executive function deficits.

Original languageEnglish
Article number114145
JournalExperimental Neurology
StatePublished - Sep 2022


  • 5-CSRT task
  • Acetylcholine
  • Attention
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Dorsomedial striatum
  • Goal-directed learning
  • Non-motor symptoms
  • mPFC


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