Centennial Honors College Western Illinois University Undergraduate Research Day 2014 Podium Presentation Disruption of Acetylcholine and Habit Learning: A Lesser Known Effect of Alzheimer's Disease? Stephanie Jacobs Faculty Mentor: Matthew Blankenship Psychology Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most prevalent form of dementia in the world, but still remains an incurable ailment with no effective treatments. The present study was aiming to better understand the nature of the disease in terms of characterizing certain memory impairments that may be associated with it – specifically implicit, or unconscious, learning and memory tasks. It has been shown that these types of tasks are associated with the basal ganglia regions of the brain, which are rich in a particular neurotransmitter known as acetylcholine. It was hypothesized that if acetylcholine transmission was reduced, rats would not be able to implicitly learn a pattern as they normally would, standing to answer questions about whether or not these systems are affected from aging and AD processes. Using a standard operant conditioning box, rats were trained to learn a well-documented serial reaction task in order to observe pattern learning. Preliminary results have shown that although the disrupted and control rats began to learn the tasks at the same rate, after the rats were treated and began the pattern learning process, the acetylcholine disrupted rats initially performed more accurately than the control counterparts on a subsequent task – suggesting there was no pattern learned to interfere with an additional task that required performing new patterns. These results provide support for the theory that acetylcholine transmission does play an important role in basal ganglia functioning, which would be impaired in AD and aging populations, therefore impeding implicit procedural-learning abilities as well.