Enhanced function in the good forelimb of hemi-parkinson rats: Compensatory adaptation for contralateral postural instability?

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In this paper we present two new assays of rat motor behavior which can be used to assess function linked to postural stability in each forelimb independently. Postural instability is a major deficit in Parkinson's disease that is resistant to levodopa therapy and contributes to the risk of falling. We applied both tests, one forelimb at a time, to normal rats as well as rats extensively depleted of dopamine by unilateral infusion of 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA, given in the medial forebrain bundle) to produce a hemi-parkinsonian syndrome. The 6-OHDA rats showed severe postural instability in the impaired forelimb, but unexpectedly showed enhanced function in the non-impaired forelimb. The data suggest that the intact hemisphere may undergo rapid reorganization subsequent to unilateral dopamine depletion, which allows for compensatory function of the “intact” limb. Measurements of amphetamine-induced striatal c-fos expression, as well as behavior results gathered when animals were under the influence of apomorphine or haloperidol, indicate that this potential reorganization may require non-dopaminergic neural plasticity. The relevance of these findings for unilateral rat models of neurological disease is discussed.

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