Deciphering the neural circuits underlying cueing in Parkinson's Disease

The ability to initiate actions is fundamental to our survival. Patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD) struggle to initiate actions and when actions are initiated, they tend to be less vigorous. However, not all actions are affected in the same way. Patients with PD seem to react better than they act. In extreme cases, people with severe PD, have been able to initiate movements with apparent normality, when initiating in reaction to an external stimulus.

This enigmatic phenomenon remains to be clearly understood. In this project, we propose to use mice with a condition similar to PD, to study this phenomenon with detail and control that is impossible in patients. To this end, we have developed a task where mice are trained to move either spontaneously or in response to a stimulus. By doing this, we have the intention to replicate the improvements in action initiation and execution in response to a stimulus seen in patients. At the same time, we will be recording the activity of neurons in different brain areas involved in action production, thus gaining insight into how this improvement is represented in neural circuits.

By providing deeper insight into the brain representation of action initiation in PD, this study has the potential to inform novel therapeutic approaches, allowing more effective and widespread use of stimulus to improve action initiation in PD.

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