Movement problems in Parkinson’s disease arise when brain nerve cells releasing the signaling chemical dopamine stop working properly and die. Exactly how dopamine-releasing nerve cells control movement, and how their activity might be disturbed well before their death in disease, are unknown. To address these key issues, Paul Dodson and colleagues at the MRC Brain Network Dynamics Unit and Oxford Parkinson’s Disease Centre recorded the electrical activity of dopamine nerve cells in mice on a running wheel. They discovered that the activity of a specific type of dopamine cell decreased (‘paused’) when normal mice began to move, compared to when the animals rested. However, in a genetic mouse model of Parkinson’s, the dopamine cells did not pause their activity, suggesting this pattern helps with movement precision. This research gives the first detailed insights into how the precisely-timed electrical and chemical signaling of dopamine nerve cells in the brain is altered in early Parkinson’s, with important implications for therapies aiming to correct nerve cell function in disease.
The research paper is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA - read the full paper here.