Animal models of Parkinson's disease

"Behavioural therapies for protecting dopamine neurons in a lesion model of Parkinson's disease."

Research is exploring the possibility that physical activity may be neuroprotective and spare dopamine neurons that would otherwise die following a neurotoxic insult in a rat model of Parkinson's disease.

The main hypothesis is that activity will reduce the impact of 6-hydroxydopamine (6OHDA) lesions both anatomically, protecting dopamine neurons that would otherwise be destroyed by the toxin, and functionally, sparing behaviours that would otherwise be impaired as a consequence of the dopamine loss.

The research may benefit people living with Parkinson's disease by determining whether behavioural therapies and exercise regimes have the potential to counter the ongoing disease process by slowing the degeneration of dopamine neurons.

This research has received funding from Parkinson's UK. Related research is currently investigating the benefits of dance and the influence of music on movement in people with Parkinson's (Lovatt, Annett and Davenport).

More research

Using a task in which rats retrieved food from pots placed to one side of the body, we have found sparing of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra and dopamine levels in the striatum of rats that made responses on the contralateral side (top image) compared with rats that made responses on the ipsilateral side (bottom image) relative to a 6OHDA lesion.

The results suggest that physical activity may lessen the impact of a dopamine lesion, whereas inactivity may make the lesion worse.

Find out more about this research from the presentation made at the SPRING (Special Parkinson's Research Interest Group) Research Conference on the Effect of Exercise on Parkinson's.