Kucinski AJ, De Jong IEM, Sarter M (2016) Preventing falls in PD in a rat model of impaired cognitive control of complex movements by a pro-cholinergic combination treatment. Neuroscience 2016 Abstracts 835.15 / III34. Society for Neuroscience, San Diego, CA.
Summary: Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients, in addition to primary motor symptoms resulting from extensive losses of striatal dopamine (DA), suffer from an interrelated group of motor-control symptoms including postural instability, gait deficits, and a propensity for falls. These levodopa-insensitive symptoms are associated with losses of cortically-projecting cholinergic neurons of the basal forebrain (BF), as well as cognitive impairments such as poor attention. Given the high prevalence and severe consequences of falls in levodopa-treated patients, alternative treatment options are urgently needed. To assess potential treatments we have developed behavioral models of falls in rats including a test system (Michigan Complex Motor Control Task, MCMCT) that requires persistent control of gait, limb coordination, and carefully timed and placed steps during traversals of dynamic surfaces (rotating square rods). Rats with bilateral cholinergic lesions of the BF using 192 IgG-saporin and 6-OHDA lesions to the dopaminergic dorsomedial striatum (dual lesions, DL) exhibit falls while traversing rotating rods and these falls correlate with impaired performance of a sustained attention task. DL rats’ falls have been hypothesized to result from interactions between disruption of normally cholinergically-driven transfer of extero- and interoceptive cue information from cortex to striatum and impaired striatal action sequencing. Here we tested the hypothesis that falls are reduced by co-treatment with acetylcholinesterase inhibitor donepezil and a 5-HT6 receptor antagonist. This combination treatment was previously reported to exhibit synergistic pro-cholinergic activity in rats and improved cognition in patients with moderate Alzheimer’s disease. Overall, drug-treated rats fell less frequently from the rotating rods and were particularly more efficient at reinstating forward movement after sudden stoppages of forward movement with a passive (doorframe) distractor task. This treatment combination may benefit fall propensity in PD patients via maintaining planned movement sequences in working memory and improving the vigor of executing such movements following brief periods of freezing of gait. The neuropharmacological interactions of this treatment may involve diverse signaling pathways converging onto striatal output neurons. Results from current experiments using microdialysis and HPLC-mass spectrometry to simultaneously assess release of striatal ACh, animo acids and monoamines during rotating rod traversals will assist in elucidating potential targets for therapeutic prevention of falls. Supported by a grant from H. Lundbeck A/S
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