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Mov Disord. 2011 May;26(6):1032-41. doi: 10.1002/mds.23695.

Milestones in research on the pathophysiology of Parkinson's disease.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


Progress in our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the cardinal motor abnormalities of Parkinson's disease (PD), in particular akinesia and bradykinesia and their treatment, has been remarkable. Notable accomplishments include insights into the functional organization of the basal ganglia and their place in the motor system as components of a family of parallel cortico-subcortical circuits that subserve motor and nonmotor functions and the development of models of the intrinsic organization of the basal ganglia, including delineation of the so-called direct, indirect, and hyperdirect pathways. Studies in primate models of PD have provided insight into the alterations of neuronal activity that are responsible for the motor features of PD, revealing both altered tonic levels of discharge and significant disturbances of the patterns of discharge throughout the motor circuitry and have led to the formulation of circuit models of PD, providing testable hypotheses for research and stimulating the development of new therapies. Most importantly, the discovery that lesions of the subthalamic nucleus, a key node of the indirect pathway, abolish the cardinal features of PD contributed to the renaissance in the use of surgical approaches to treating patients with PD, including ablation and deep brain stimulation.

Copyright © 2011 Movement Disorder Society.

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