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Synapse. 2012 Apr;66(4):331-9. doi: 10.1002/syn.21516. Epub 2011 Dec 29.

Restoring cerebral dopamine homeostasis by electrical forepaw stimulation: an FMRI study.

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  • 1Department of Radiology, Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital, Charlestown, Massachusetts 02129, USA.


Deviation of dopamine homeostasis is known to be associated with disorders like drug addiction and Parkinson's disease. As dopamine function is tightly regulated within the basal ganglia circuitry, cortical perturbation would lead to modulation of dopaminergic activity in the striatum. We proposed and tested if somatosensory activity such as forepaw stimulation could modulate dopaminergic function. Specifically, we tested in rats if electrical forepaw stimulation (EFS) could attenuate dopamine release in the brain if dopamine is excessive, and boost dopamine release if dopamine is deficient. We had previously demonstrated that EFS effectively attenuated excessive DA concentration in the striatum. We now show in this manuscript with fMRI that EFS boosted DA release on two DA deficient conditions: (1) with quinpirole challenge, and (2) partial Parkinsonism model (PD). Quinpirole alone decreased dopamine release and thus the cerebral blood volume (CBV) that was restored by EFS. EFS also succeeded in increasing CBV in the basal-ganglia circuitry of the PD rats, but not in the controls. Context-dependent connectivity analysis showed increased connectivity during the basal state in the PD rats, compared with the controls. This "enhanced" yet abnormal connectivity of PD rats was reduced post-EFS. Our results suggest that EFS resets the deficient DA system by partially increasing DA release, in the meanwhile lessening the need for recruiting extra functional network in the basal ganglia circuitry. This study shows not only the capacity of peripheral stimulation to perturb neurotransmitter function, but also the potential of peripheral stimulation to restore neurotransmitter homeostasis.

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