Priming for l-dopa-induced dyskinesia in Parkinson's disease: a feature inherent to the treatment or the disease?

Prog Neurobiol. 2009 Jan 12;87(1):1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2008.09.013. Epub 2008 Sep 30.


Involuntary movements, or dyskinesia, represent a debilitating complication of levodopa therapy for Parkinson's disease ultimately experienced by the vast majority of patients. This article does not review the increased understanding of dyskinesia pathophysiology we have seen during the past few years but, instead, specifically focuses upon the very first molecular events thought to be responsible for the establishment of dyskinesia and generally grouped under the term of "priming". Priming is classically defined as the process by which the brain becomes sensitized such that administration of a dopaminergic therapy modifies the response to subsequent dopaminergic treatments. In this way, over time, with repeated treatment, the chance of dopaminergic stimulation eliciting dyskinesia is increased and once dyskinesia has been established, the severity of dyskinesia increases. In this opinion review, however, we aim at strongly opposing the common view of priming. We propose, and hopefully will demonstrate, that priming does not exist per se but is the direct and intrinsic consequence of the loss of dopamine innervation of the striatum (and other target structures), meaning that the first injections of dopaminergic drugs only exacerbate those mechanisms (sensitization) but do not induce them. Chronicity and pulsatility of subsequent dopaminergic treatment only exacerbates the likelihood of developing dyskinesia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiparkinson Agents / adverse effects*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Dopamine / deficiency
  • Dyskinesia, Drug-Induced / etiology*
  • Dyskinesia, Drug-Induced / metabolism
  • Dyskinesia, Drug-Induced / pathology
  • Humans
  • Levodopa / adverse effects*
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy*


  • Antiparkinson Agents
  • Levodopa
  • Dopamine