Welcome to the Basal Ganglia Pathophysiology Team
The basal ganglia are a group of interconnected brain nuclei involved in the control of movements and thoughts. Loss or dysfunction of neurons within the basal ganglia can cause two types of disorders: one one hand, impoverished and slow movements (hypokinesia and bradykinesia), on the other hand, excessive and uncontrollable movements (dyskinesia, dystonia). Aphathy and impulsive-compulsive behaviours are analogous disorders within the domains of mood and mentation.
Parkinson´s disease (PD; prevalence ~ 1% in the population over 55 years of age) is the most common neurodegenerative disease affecting the basal ganglia. Dopamine-containing neurons that innervate the striatum are particularly vulnerable to the neurodegenerative process, and the loss of these neurons causes typical motor symptoms that lead to PD diagnosis. Pharmacological dopamine replacement with L-DOPA remains the most effective treatment for PD. However, in the long-term, this treatment causes debilitating complications, such as motor fluctuations and dyskinesia (abnormal involuntary movements) and mood swings. Non-pharmacological treatment strategies for PD, such as intracerebral cell transplants, can cause dyskinesia too.
Our research explores molecular and cellular changes in basal ganglia disease, including the changes induced by different treatment interventions. Several projects pursue mechanisms of symptom development and treatment-related complications in PD. These studies take advantage of rodent models of PD and L-DOPA-induced dyskinesia that we have developed. We are also developing animal models of cognitive dysfunction and impulse-control disorders relevant to PD. Furthermore we are evaluating the therapeutic potential of novel pharmacological agents that act on non-dopaminergic receptor systems. Our research will contribute to the development of novel treatments strategies for Parkinson´s Disease and other disorders of the basal ganglia.