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Neurology. 1985 Aug;35(8):1215-8.

Parkinson's disease: loss of neurons from the ventral tegmental area contralateral to therapeutic surgical lesions.


Decreased numbers of pigmented neurons of the dopaminergic nigrostriatal system are the most striking pathology in the brains of individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD), but it is clear that neurons in the locus ceruleus, vagal nuclei, and nucleus basalis of Meynert are also affected in this disease. Because neurochemical evidence suggested that the mesolimbic dopaminergic system originating in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) may also be involved, the present study was designed to evaluate the mesolimbic dopamine system in PD by counting pigmented neurons in the VTA contralateral to therapeutic lesions placed in the basal ganglia or thalamus. In PD, VTA neurons were depleted to 36 to 55% of control values. Moreover, the VTA showed excessive free pigment, a marker for death of pigmented neurons. These changes may be important in disorders of movement or mentation occurring in PD.

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