Phrenic and hypoglossal nerve activity during respiratory response to hypoxia in 6-OHDA unilateral model of Parkinson's disease

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Parkinson's disease (PD) patients apart from motor dysfunctions exhibit respiratory disturbances. Their mechanism is still unknown and requires investigation. Our research was designed to examine the activity of phrenic (PHR) and hypoglossal (HG) nerves activity during a hypoxic respiratory response in the 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) model of PD.

Main methods:

Male adult Wistar rats were injected unilaterally with 6-OHDA (20 μg) or the vehicle into the right medial forebrain bundle (MFB). Two weeks after the surgery the activity of the phrenic and hypoglossal nerve was registered in anesthetized, vagotomized, paralyzed, and mechanically ventilated rats under normoxic and hypoxic conditions. Lesion effectiveness was confirmed by the cylinder test, performed before the MFB injection and 14 days after, before the respiratory experiment.

Key findings:

6-OHDA lesioned animals showed a significant increase in normoxic inspiratory time. Expiratory time and total time of the respiratory cycle were prolonged in PD rats after hypoxia. The amplitude of the PHR activity and its minute activity were increased in comparison to the sham group at recovery time and during 30 s of hypoxia. The amplitude of the HG activity was increased in response to hypoxia in 6-OHDA lesioned animals. The degeneration of dopaminergic neurons decreased the pre-inspiratory/inspiratory ratio of the hypoglossal burst amplitude during and after hypoxia.


Unilateral MFB lesion changed the activity of the phrenic and hypoglossal nerves. The altered pre-inspiratory hypoglossal nerve activity indicates modifications to the central mechanisms controlling the activity of the HG nerve and may explain respiratory disorders seen in PD, i.e. apnea.

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