Deep brain stimulation of the substantia nigra pars reticulata improves forelimb akinesia in the hemiparkinsonian rat

J Neurophysiol. 2013 Jan;109(2):363-74. doi: 10.1152/jn.00311.2012. Epub 2012 Oct 17.


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) employing high-frequency stimulation (HFS) is commonly used in the globus pallidus interna (GPi) and the subthalamic nucleus (STN) for treating motor symptoms of patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). Although DBS improves motor function in most PD patients, disease progression and stimulation-induced nonmotor complications limit DBS in these areas. In this study, we assessed whether stimulation of the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) improved motor function. Hemiparkinsonian rats predominantly touched with their unimpaired forepaw >90% of the time in the stepping and limb-use asymmetry tests. After SNr-HFS (150 Hz), rats touched equally with both forepaws, similar to naive and sham-lesioned rats. In vivo, SNr-HFS decreased beta oscillations (12-30 Hz) in the SNr of freely moving hemiparkinsonian rats and decreased SNr neuronal spiking activity from 28 ± 1.9 Hz before stimulation to 0.8 ± 1.9 Hz during DBS in anesthetized animals; also, neuronal spiking activity increased from 7 ± 1.6 to 18 ± 1.6 Hz in the ventromedial portion of the thalamus (VM), the primary SNr efferent. In addition, HFS of the SNr in brain slices from normal and reserpine-treated rat pups resulted in a depolarization block of SNr neuronal activity. We demonstrate improvement of forelimb akinesia with SNr-HFS and suggest that this motor effect may have resulted from the attenuation of SNr neuronal activity, decreased SNr beta oscillations, and increased activity of VM thalamic neurons, suggesting that the SNr may be a plausible DBS target for treating motor symptoms of DBS.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Beta Rhythm
  • Deep Brain Stimulation*
  • Forelimb / innervation
  • Forelimb / physiopathology
  • Hypokinesia / therapy*
  • Male
  • Oxidopamine / toxicity
  • Parkinson Disease, Secondary / chemically induced
  • Parkinson Disease, Secondary / physiopathology
  • Parkinson Disease, Secondary / therapy*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reserpine / therapeutic use
  • Substantia Nigra / physiopathology*
  • Thalamus / physiopathology


  • Antipsychotic Agents
  • Reserpine
  • Oxidopamine