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

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Abstract

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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