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Exp Neurol. 2001 Sep;171(1):72-83.

In vivo extracellular recording of striatal neurons in the awake rat following unilateral 6-hydroxydopamine lesions.

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Intramural Research Program, Cellular Neurobiology Branch, National Institute on Drug Abuse, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.


The purpose of this study was to further understand the functional effects of dopaminergic input to the dorsal striatum and to compare the effects of dopaminergic lesions in awake and anesthetized animals. We examined the effects of unilateral 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lesions of the ascending dopaminergic bundle on the firing properties of dorsal striatal neurons in the awake freely moving rat using chronically implanted microwire electrode arrays. We recorded extracellular activity of striatal neurons under baseline conditions and following the systemic injection of apomorphine in awake and anesthetized subjects. Firing rates were higher in the hemisphere ipsilateral to the 6-OHDA lesion compared to rates of neurons from the contralateral unlesioned hemisphere. Striatal firing rates from sham and no-surgery control rats were, in general, higher than those from the contralateral unlesioned striatum of experimental subjects. Apomorphine (0.05 mg/kg, sc) normalized the differences in firing rates in lesioned animals by increasing firing of neurons within the contralateral unlesioned side, while simultaneously decreasing firing of neurons within the ipsilateral lesioned side. Mean firing rates were substantially higher in awake animals than in subjects anesthetized with chloral hydrate, perhaps reflecting anesthesia-induced decreases in excitatory input to striatal neurons. Chloral hydrate anesthesia decreased firing rates of neurons in the lesioned, unlesioned, and control striata to a similar degree, although absolute firing rates of neurons from the 6-OHDA-lesioned striata remained elevated over all other groups. Unilateral 6-OHDA lesions also altered the pattern of spike output in the awake animal as indicated by an increase in the number of bursts per minute following dopaminergic deafferentation. This and other burst parameters were altered by apomorphine. Our findings show that effects of dopaminergic deafferentation can be measured in the awake behaving animal; this model should prove useful for testing the behavioral and functional effects of experimental manipulations designed to reduce or reverse the effects of dopaminergic cell loss. In addition, these results suggest that the contralateral changes in striatal function which occur in the unilateral dopaminergic lesion model should be considered when evaluating experimental results.

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