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J Neurosci Methods. 2011 Aug 30;200(1):29-35. doi: 10.1016/j.jneumeth.2011.06.012. Epub 2011 Jun 23.

Increased efficacy of the 6-hydroxydopamine lesion of the median forebrain bundle in small rats, by modification of the stereotaxic coordinates.

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Department of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Biomedical Sciences Building, Museum Avenue Cardiff CF10 3AX, UK.


The 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) lesion is the most widely used rat model of Parkinson's disease. A single unilateral injection of 6-OHDA into the median forebrain bundle (MFB) selectively destroys dopamine neurons in the ipsilateral substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) and ventral tegmental area (VTA), removing more than 95% of the dopamine innervation from target areas. The stereotaxic coordinates used to deliver 6-OHDA to the MFB have been used in our laboratory successfully for more than 25 years. However, in recent years we have observed a decline in the success rate of this lesion. Previously regular success rates of >80% of rats lesioned, have become progressively more variable, with rates as low as 20% recorded in some experiments. Having excluded variability of the neurotoxin and operator errors, we hypothesized that the change seen might be due to the use of smaller rats at the time of first surgery. An attempt to proportionally adjust the lesion coordinates base on head size did not increase lesion efficacy. However, in support of the small rat hypothesis it was observed that, using the standard coordinates, rat's heads had a "nose-up" position in the stereotaxic fame. Adjustment of the nose bar to obtain a flat head position during surgery improved lesion success, and subsequent adjustments of the lesion coordinates to account for smaller head size led to a greatly increased lesion efficacy (>90%) as assessed by amphetamine induced rotation.

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