Researchers have, for the first time, systematically recorded neural activity in the human striatum, a deep brain structure that plays a major role in cognitive and motor function. These two functions are compromised in Parkinson’s disease (PD), which makes the neuron-firing abnormalities the study results revealed key to better understanding the pathophysiology of PD and, ultimately, developing better treatments and preventions. The study findings are reported in the current online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In this study, the researchers compared striatal recordings across people who have PD and other neurological disorders (dystonia and essential tremor) with correlative findings in nonhuman primates. The researchers undertook a rigorous, several-year selection process to find the right patients undergoing surgical deep brain stimulation treatment in order to obtain sufficient recordings. The study was further supported by the researchers comparing data obtained in nonhuman primates, which provided critical animal controls and disease models.

The researchers’ next steps are to continue investigating the physiological and molecular mechanisms participating in the abnormal firing of striatal projection neurons in PD. Understanding these mechanisms is key to developing target-specific treatments to improve the lives of people who have PD.

Paper: “Human striatal recordings reveal abnormal discharge of projection neurons in Parkinson’s disease”
Reprinted from materials provided by Emory Health Sciences.

September 8, 2016