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Brain Res Bull. 1993;32(5):477-86.

Locomotion of aged rats: relationship to neurochemical but not morphological changes in nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons.

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CytoTherapeutics, Inc., Providence, RI 02906.


Spontaneous locomotion and motor coordination was evaluated in young (5-6 month old) and aged (24-25 month old) rats. Animals were tested for spontaneous locomotor activity in Digiscan Animal Activity Monitors during the nocturnal cycle. Aged animals exhibited a significant hypoactivity compared to their young counterparts. Evaluation of the time course of activity revealed that the young animals had a cyclical pattern of activity during the 12-hour testing period with clear peaks at 2-4 hours after the initiation of testing and at 8- to 10-hour intervals thereafter. In contrast, the aged animals exhibited a blunted initial activity peak. During the remainder of the test period the aged animals activity was stable with no further peaks in activity. Compared to the young animals the aged animals also (a) remained suspended from a horizontal wire for less time, (b) were unable to descend a wooden pole covered with wire mesh in a coordinated manner, (c) fell more rapidly from a rotating rod and (d) were unable to maintain their balance on a series of wooden beams with either a square or rounded top of varying widths. Histological analysis demonstrated that there was no reduction in the number, area, or length of tyrosine hydroxylase-immunoreactive neurons within the A8, A9, or A10 region of the aged animals. Neurochemical analysis revealed that while DA and HVA levels were not decreased in the aged rats, DOPAC levels, as well as the ratios of DA/DOPAC and DA/HVA, were decreased. These results indicate that neurochemical but not morphological changes within the nigrostriatal dopaminergic system underlie the deficits in motor behavior observed in aged rats.

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