• cerebral cortex;
  • electroencephalogram;
  • Parkinson's disease;
  • substantia nigra pars reticulata


A high proportion of neurons in the basal ganglia display rhythmic burst firing after chronic nigrostriatal lesions. For instance, the periodic bursts exhibited by certain striatal and subthalamic nucleus neurons in 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rats seem to be driven by the ∼ 1 Hz high-amplitude rhythm that is prevalent in the cerebral cortex of anaesthetized animals. Because the striatum and subthalamic nucleus are the main afferent structures of the substantia nigra pars reticulata, we examined the possibility that the low-frequency modulations (periodic bursts) that are evident in approximately 50% nigral pars reticulata neurons in the parkinsonian condition were also coupled to this slow cortical rhythm. By recording the frontal cortex field potential simultaneously with single-unit activity in the substantia nigra pars reticulata of anaesthetized rats, we proved the following. (i) The firing of nigral pars reticulata units from sham-lesioned rats is not coupled to the ∼ 1 Hz frontal cortex slow oscillation. (ii) Approximately 50% nigral pars reticulata units from 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rats oscillate synchronously with the ∼ 1 Hz cortical rhythm, with the cortex leading the substantia nigra by ∼ 55 ms; the remaining ∼ 50% nigral pars reticulata units behave as the units recorded from sham-lesioned rats. (iii) Periodic bursting in nigral pars reticulata units from 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rats is disrupted by episodes of desynchronization of cortical field potential activity. Our results strongly support that nigrostriatal lesions promote the spreading of low-frequency cortical rhythms to the substantia nigra pars reticulata and may be of outstanding relevance for understanding the pathophysiology of Parkinson's disease.