Firing during sensorimotor exam was used to categorize single neurons in the lateral striatum of awake, unrestrained rats. Five rats received unilateral injection of 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) into the medial forebrain bundle to deplete striatal dopamine (DA; >98% depletion, postmortem assay). Three months after treatment, rats exhibited exaggerated rotational behavior induced by L-dihydroxyphenylalanine (L-DOPA) and contralateral sensory neglect. Electrode track "depth profiles" on the DA-depleted side showed fragmented clustering of neurons related to sensorimotor activity of single body parts (SBP neurons). Clusters were smaller than normal, and more SBP neurons were observed in isolation, outside of clusters. More body parts were represented per unit volume. No recovery in these measures was observed up to one year post lesion. Overall distributions of neurons related to different body parts were not altered. The fragmentation of SBP clusters after DA depletion indicates that a percentage of striatal SBP neurons switched responsiveness from one body part to one or more different body parts. Because the specific firing that characterizes striatal SBP neurons is mediated by corticostriatal inputs (Liles and Updyke  Brain Res. 339:245-255), the data indicate that DA depletion resulted in a reorganization of corticostriatal connections, perhaps via unmasking or sprouting of connections to adjacent clusters of striatal neurons. After reorganization, sensory activity in a localized body part activates striatal neurons that have switched to that body part. In turn, switched signals sent from basal ganglia to premotor and motor neurons, which likely retain their original connections, would create mismatches in these normally precise topographic connections. Switched signals could partially explain parkinsonian deficits in motor functions involving somatosensory guidance and their intractability to L-DOPA therapy-particularly if the switching involves sprouting.
- Basal ganglia
- Parkinson's disease