The prefrontal cortex (PFC) plays essential roles in cognitive processes. Previous studies have suggested the layer and the cell type-specific activation for cognitive enhancement. However, the mechanism by which a temporal pattern of activation affects cognitive function remains to be elucidated. Here, we investigated whether the specific activation of excitatory neurons in the superficial layers mainly in the PFC according to a rhythmic or nonrhythmic pattern could modulate the cognitive functions of normal mice. We used a C128S mutant of channelrhodopsin 2, a step function opsin, and administered two light illumination patterns: (i) alternating pulses of blue and yellow light for rhythmic activation or (ii) pulsed blue light only for nonrhythmic activation. Behavioral analyses were performed to compare the behavioral consequences of these two neural activation patterns. The alternating blue and yellow light pulses, but not the pulsed blue light only, significantly improved spatial working memory and social recognition without affecting motor activity or the anxiety level. These results suggest that the rhythmic, but not the nonrhythmic, activation could enhance cognitive functions. This study indicates that not only the population of neurons that are activated but also the pattern of activation plays a crucial role in the cognitive enhancement.
ASJC Scopus subject areas