Identification of mutations that cause rare familial forms of Parkinson's disease (PD) and subsequent studies of genetic risk factors for sporadic PD have led to an improved understanding of the pathological mechanisms that may cause nonfamilial PD. In particular, genetic and pathological studies strongly suggest that alpha-synuclein, albeit very rarely mutated in PD patients, plays a critical role in the vast majority of individuals with the sporadic form of the disease. We have extensively characterized a mouse model over-expressing full-length, human, wild-type alpha-synuclein under the Thy-1 promoter. We have also shown that this model reproduces many features of sporadic PD, including progressive changes in dopamine release and striatal content, alpha-synuclein pathology, deficits in motor and nonmotor functions that are affected in pre-manifest and manifest phases of PD, inflammation, and biochemical and molecular changes similar to those observed in PD. Preclinical studies have already demonstrated improvement with promising new drugs in this model, which provides an opportunity to test novel neuroprotective strategies during different phases of the disorder using endpoint measures with high power to detect drug effects.