From experimentation to the surgical treatment of Parkinson's disease: prelude or suite in basal ganglia research?

Prog Neurobiol. 1999 Dec;59(5):509-32. doi: 10.1016/s0301-0082(99)00015-5.


Parkinson's disease remains one of the greatest challenges facing those who work in the field of neurological research. Although the development of levodopa treatment revolutionised management of this debilitating diseases, no effective long-term therapy has yet been found. With recent advances in the understanding of basal ganglia physiopathology and the experimental demonstration of the efficacy of certain surgical procedures, there is a renewed interest in the surgical approach. This paper provides a chronological overview of the history of parkinsonian surgery and discusses the principal surgical options at our disposal today. These take three main forms: ablation (thalamotomy, pallidotomy and subthalamotomy); cell graft and gene therapy (mainly in the striatum); and deep brain stimulation (of the thalamus, globus pallidus pars internalis and the subthalamic nucleus). Our knowledge of basal ganglia function and our conception of how motor information is processed by this network have evolved parallel to the development of surgical techniques. Recent results from both clinical and experimental studies underline the complexity of the physiopathological mechanisms which generate parkinsonian symptomatology and lead us to question our assumption that each class of clinical signs (tremor, akinesia, rigidity, levodopa-induced dyskinesias...) is produced by a specific and separate mechanism. In the same way, comparison of the electrophysiological and biochemical effects of the different techniques induced in brain function vary considerably. This complex world of interaction and interconnection is a labyrinth that we are still far from comprehending in its entirety. All the more reason, in consequence, for extending experimental investigation into the impact of any new therapy before proposing its clinical application.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basal Ganglia / physiopathology*
  • Basal Ganglia / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Parkinson Disease / surgery*
  • Substantia Nigra / physiopathology