Research into the pathophysiology of Parkinson's disease has been rapidly advanced by the development of animal models. Initial models were developed by using toxins that specifically targeted dopamine neurons, the most successful of which used 6-hydroxydopamine in rats and 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine in mice and primates. Their combination with specific striatal toxins, such as quinolinic acid or 3-nitropropionic acid, has led to the development of experimental models replicating the salient pathological and clinical features of multiple system atrophy of the striatonigral degeneration subtype both in rodents and primates. More recently, the identification of alpha-synuclein gene mutations in rare familial cases of Parkinson's disease has led to the development of alpha-synuclein knock-out and transgenic animals. We conclude that the use and improvement of both phenotypic and genetic models can significantly speed progress toward understanding the pathophysiology of these devastating diseases and finding innovative cures.