High-frequency stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus modulates the activity of pedunculopontine neurons through direct activation of excitatory fibres as well as through indirect activation of inhibitory pallidal fibres in the rat


Professor E. Scarnati, as above.
E-mail: scarnati@univaq.it


Recent data suggest a potential role of pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN) electrical stimulation in improving gait and posture in Parkinson's disease. Because the PPN receives fibres from the subthalamic nucleus (STN), we investigated the effects of STN-high-frequency stimulation (HFS) on PPN neuronal activity in intact rats and in rats bearing either an ibotenate lesion of the entopeduncular nucleus (EP) or a lesion of the substantia nigra (SN). The main response of PPN neurons to STN single-shock stimulations in the three experimental groups was a short latency (4.5 ± 2.1 ms) and brief (15.3 ± 6.5 ms) excitation. This response was maintained during 1–5 s of STN-HFS (130 Hz, 60 µs, 100–1000 µA). In EP-lesioned rats the percentage (75.0%) of PPN neurons showing a modulation of activity following STN-HFS was significantly higher compared with that observed in intact (39.7%) and in SN-lesioned rats (35.4%). Furthermore, in EP-lesioned rats the most frequent response of PPN neurons following STN-HFS was a 5–20 s excitation, which was present in 76.6% of responsive neurons in comparison to 15.4% and 9.1% of neurons responsive in intact and in 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rats, respectively. Neurons responsive to STN-HFS in the three experimental groups showed either a sharp positively skewed distribution of interspike intervals or multisecond oscillations in autocorrelograms. The results support that STN-HFS modulates the PPN through a balance of excitatory and inhibitory influences, which may be independent from the dopaminergic nigral neurons. In the absence of inhibitory EP fibres, the direct excitatory influence exerted by the STN on the PPN appears to predominate.