The subthalamic nucleus (STN) is a major player in the input and output of the basal ganglia motor circuitry. The neuronal regular firing pattern of the STN changes into a pathological bursting mode in both advanced Parkinson's disease (PD) and in PD animals models with severe dopamine depletion. One of the current hypothesis, based on clinical and experimental evidence, is that this typical burst activity is responsible for some of the principal motor symptoms. In the current study we tested whether mild DA depletion, mimicking early stages of PD, induced deficits in motor behaviour and changes in STN neuronal activity. The present study demonstrated that rats with a mild lesion (20–40% loss of DA neurons) and a slowed motor response, but without gross motor abnormalities already have an increased number of bursty STN neurons under urethane anaesthesia. These findings indicate that the early increase in STN burst activity is a compensatory mechanism to maintain the dopamine homeostasis in the basal ganglia.
- Subthalamic nucleus
- motor behaviour