Dopamine regulates distinctively the activity patterns of striatal output neurons in advanced parkinsonian primates

Arun Singh, Li Liang, Yoshiki Kaneoke, Xuebing Cao, Stella M. Papa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Nigrostriatal dopamine denervation plays a major role in basal ganglia circuitry disarray and motor abnormalities of Parkinson’s disease (PD). Studies in rodent and primate models have revealed that striatal projection neurons, namely, medium spiny neurons (MSNs), increase the firing frequency. However, their activity pattern changes and the effects of dopaminergic stimulation in such conditions are unknown. Using single-cell recordings in 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP)-treated primates with advanced parkinsonism, we studied MSN activity patterns in the transition to different motor states following levodopa administration. In the “off” state (baseline parkinsonian disability), a burst-firing pattern accompanied by prolonged silences (pauses) was found in 34% of MSNs, and 80% of these exhibited a levodopa response compatible with dopamine D1 receptor activation (direct pathway MSNs). This pattern was highly responsive to levodopa given that bursting/pausing almost disappeared in the “on” state (reversal of parkinsonism after levodopa injection), although this led to higher firing rates. Nonbursty MSNs fired irregularly with marked pausing that increased in the on state in the MSN subset with a levodopa response compatible with dopamine D2 receptor activation (indirect pathway MSNs), although the pause increase was not sustained in some units during the appearance of dyskinesias. Data indicate that the MSN firing pattern in the advanced parkinsonian monkey is altered by bursting and pausing changes and that dopamine differentially and inefficiently regulates these behaviorally correlated patterns in MSN subpopulations. These findings may contribute to understand the impact of striatal dysfunction in the basal ganglia network and its role in motor symptoms of PD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1533-1544
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 the American Physiological Society.


  • Basal ganglia
  • Bursts
  • Dyskinesias
  • Electrophysiology
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Pauses
  • Striatum


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