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Concept: Basal ganglia


Parkinson’s disease is a chronic progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by resting tremor, slowness of movements, rigidity, gait disturbance and postural instability. Most investigations on Parkinson’s disease focused on the basal ganglia, whereas the cerebellum has often been overlooked. However, increasing evidence suggests that the cerebellum may have certain roles in the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease. Anatomical studies identified reciprocal connections between the basal ganglia and cerebellum. There are Parkinson’s disease-related pathological changes in the cerebellum. Functional or morphological modulations in the cerebellum were detected related to akinesia/rigidity, tremor, gait disturbance, dyskinesia and some non-motor symptoms. It is likely that the major roles of the cerebellum in Parkinson’s disease include pathological and compensatory effects. Pathological changes in the cerebellum might be induced by dopaminergic degeneration, abnormal drives from the basal ganglia and dopaminergic treatment, and may account for some clinical symptoms in Parkinson’s disease. The compensatory effect may help maintain better motor and non-motor functions. The cerebellum is also a potential target for some parkinsonian symptoms. Our knowledge about the roles of the cerebellum in Parkinson’s disease remains limited, and further attention to the cerebellum is warranted.

Concepts: Neurology, Parkinson's disease, Deep brain stimulation, Basal ganglia, Substantia nigra, Dopamine, Haloperidol, Tremor


Dystonic storm is a frightening hyperkinetic movement disorder emergency. Marked, rapid exacerbation of dystonia requires prompt intervention and admission to the intensive care unit. Clinical features of dystonic storm include fever, tachycardia, tachypnea, hypertension, sweating and autonomic instability, often progressing to bulbar dysfunction with dysarthria, dysphagia and respiratory failure. It is critical to recognize early and differentiate dystonic storm from other hyperkinetic movement disorder emergencies. Dystonic storm usually occurs in patients with known dystonia, such as DYT1 dystonia, Wilson’s disease and dystonic cerebral palsy. Triggers such as infection or medication adjustment are present in about one-third of all events. Due to the significant morbidity and mortality of this disorder, we propose a management algorithm that divides decision making into two periods: the first 24 h, and the next 2-4 weeks. During the first 24 h, supportive therapy should be initiated, and appropriate patients should be identified early as candidates for pallidal deep brain stimulation or intrathecal baclofen. Management in the next 2-4 weeks aims at symptomatic dystonia control and supportive therapies.

Concepts: Intensive care medicine, Neurology, Parkinson's disease, Deep brain stimulation, Basal ganglia, Dystonia, Wilson's disease, Neurological disorders


This study provides a demonstration in the rat of a clear genetic difference in the propensity for addiction-related behaviors following prolonged cocaine self-administration. It relies on the use of selectively bred high-responder (bHR) and low-responder (bLR) rat lines that differ in several characteristics associated with “temperament,” including novelty-induced locomotion and impulsivity. We show that bHR rats exhibit behaviors reminiscent of human addiction, including persistent cocaine-seeking and increased reinstatement of cocaine seeking. To uncover potential underlying mechanisms of this differential vulnerability, we focused on the core of the nucleus accumbens and examined expression and epigenetic regulation of two transcripts previously implicated in bHR/bLR differences: fibroblast growth factor (FGF2) and the dopamine D2 receptor (D2). Relative to bHRs, bLRs had lower FGF2 mRNA levels and increased association of a repressive mark on histones (H3K9me3) at the FGF2 promoter. These differences were apparent under basal conditions and persisted even following prolonged cocaine self-administration. In contrast, bHRs had lower D2 mRNA under basal conditions, with greater association of H3K9me3 at the D2 promoter and these differences were no longer apparent following prolonged cocaine self-administration. Correlational analyses indicate that the association of H3K9me3 at D2 may be a critical substrate underlying the propensity to relapse. These findings suggest that low D2 mRNA levels in the nucleus accumbens core, likely mediated via epigenetic modifications, may render individuals more susceptible to cocaine addiction. In contrast, low FGF2 levels, which appear immutable even following prolonged cocaine exposure, may serve as a protective factor.

Concepts: DNA, Ventral tegmental area, Gene expression, Basal ganglia, Substantia nigra, Dopamine, Nucleus accumbens, Cocaine


The last known Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus)-aka the thylacine-died in 1936. Because its natural behavior was never scientifically documented, we are left to infer aspects of its behavior from museum specimens and historical recollections of bushmen. Recent advances in brain imaging have made it possible to scan postmortem specimens of a wide range of animals, even more than a decade old. Any thylacine brain, however, would be more than 100 years old. Here, we show that it is possible to reconstruct white matter tracts in two thylacine brains. For functional interpretation, we compare to the white matter reconstructions of the brains of two Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii). We reconstructed the cortical projection zones of the basal ganglia and major thalamic nuclei. The basal ganglia reconstruction showed a more modularized pattern in the cortex of the thylacine, while the devil cortex was dominated by the putamen. Similarly, the thalamic projections had a more orderly topography in the thylacine than the devil. These results are consistent with theories of brain evolution suggesting that larger brains are more modularized. Functionally, the thylacine’s brain may have had relatively more cortex devoted to planning and decision-making, which would be consistent with a predatory ecological niche versus the scavenging niche of the devil.

Concepts: Basal ganglia, Thalamus, Marsupial, Tasmania, Dingo, Tasmanian Devil, Dasyuromorphia, Dasyuromorphs


Purpose To document the imaging findings associated with congenital Zika virus infection as found in the Instituto de Pesquisa in Campina Grande State Paraiba (IPESQ) in northeastern Brazil, where the congenital infection has been particularly severe. Materials and Methods From June 2015 to May 2016, 438 patients were referred to the IPESQ for rash occurring during pregnancy or for suspected fetal central nervous system abnormality. Patients who underwent imaging at IPESQ were included, as well as those with documented Zika virus infection in fluid or tissue (n = 17, confirmed infection cohort) or those with brain findings suspicious for Zika virus infection, with intracranial calcifications (n = 28, presumed infection cohort). Imaging examinations included 12 fetal magnetic resonance (MR) examinations, 42 postnatal brain computed tomographic examinations, and 11 postnatal brain MR examinations. Images were reviewed by four radiologists, with final opinion achieved by means of consensus. Results Brain abnormalities seen in confirmed (n = 17) and presumed (n = 28) congenital Zika virus infections were similar, with ventriculomegaly in 16 of 17 (94%) and 27 of 28 (96%) infections, respectively; abnormalities of the corpus callosum in 16 of 17 (94%) and 22 of 28 (78%) infections, respectively; and cortical migrational abnormalities in 16 of 17 (94%) and 28 of 28 (100%) infections, respectively. Although most fetuses underwent at least one examination that showed head circumference below the 5th percentile, head circumference could be normal in the presence of severe ventriculomegaly (seen in three fetuses). Intracranial calcifications were most commonly seen at the gray matter-white matter junction, in 15 of 17 (88%) and 28 of 28 (100%) confirmed and presumed infections, respectively. The basal ganglia and/or thalamus were also commonly involved with calcifications in 11 of 17 (65%) and 18 of 28 (64%) infections, respectively. The skull frequently had a collapsed appearance with overlapping sutures and redundant skin folds and, occasionally, intracranial herniation of orbital fat and clot in the confluence of sinuses. Conclusion The spectrum of findings associated with congenital Zika virus infection in the IPESQ in northeastern Brazil is illustrated to aid the radiologist in identifying Zika virus infection at imaging. (©) RSNA, 2016 Online supplemental material is available for this article.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Brain, Virus, Cerebrum, Basal ganglia, Skull, Thalamus


High-level cognitive and emotional experience arises from brain activity, but the specific brain substrates for religious and spiritual euphoria remain unclear. We demonstrate using fMRI scans in 19 devout Mormons that a recognizable feeling central to their devotional practice was reproducibly associated with activation in nucleus accumbens, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and frontal attentional regions. Nucleus accumbens activation preceded peak spiritual feelings by 1-3 seconds and was replicated in 4 separate tasks. Attentional activation in the anterior cingulate and frontal eye fields was greater in the right hemisphere. The association of abstract ideas and brain reward circuitry may interact with frontal attentional and emotive salience processing, suggesting a mechanism whereby doctrinal concepts may come to be intrinsically rewarding and motivate behavior in religious individuals.

Concepts: Neuroanatomy, Brain, Cerebrum, Basal ganglia, Limbic system, Frontal lobe, Prefrontal cortex, Ventromedial prefrontal cortex


Nearly 30% of the approximately 700,000 military personnel who served in Operation Desert Storm (1990-1991) have developed Gulf War Illness, a condition that presents with symptoms such as cognitive impairment, autonomic dysfunction, debilitating fatigue and chronic widespread pain that implicate the central nervous system. A hallmark complaint of subjects with Gulf War Illness is post-exertional malaise; defined as an exacerbation of symptoms following physical and/or mental effort. To study the causal relationship between exercise, the brain, and changes in symptoms, 28 Gulf War veterans and 10 controls completed an fMRI scan before and after two exercise stress tests to investigate serial changes in pain, autonomic function, and working memory. Exercise induced two clinical Gulf War Illness subgroups. One subgroup presented with orthostatic tachycardia (n = 10). This phenotype correlated with brainstem atrophy, baseline working memory compensation in the cerebellar vermis, and subsequent loss of compensation after exercise. The other subgroup developed exercise induced hyperalgesia (n = 18) that was associated with cortical atrophy and baseline working memory compensation in the basal ganglia. Alterations in cognition, brain structure, and symptoms were absent in controls. Our novel findings may provide an understanding of the relationship between the brain and post-exertional malaise in Gulf War Illness.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Psychology, Neuron, Brain, Basal ganglia, Cerebellum, Gulf War


The biological mechanisms underlying long-term partner bonds in humans are unclear. The evolutionarily conserved neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) is associated with the formation of partner bonds in some species via interactions with brain dopamine reward systems. However, whether it plays a similar role in humans has as yet not been established. Here, we report the results of a discovery and a replication study, each involving a double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subject, pharmaco-functional MRI experiment with 20 heterosexual pair-bonded male volunteers. In both experiments, intranasal OXT treatment (24 IU) made subjects perceive their female partner’s face as more attractive compared with unfamiliar women but had no effect on the attractiveness of other familiar women. This enhanced positive partner bias was paralleled by an increased response to partner stimuli compared with unfamiliar women in brain reward regions including the ventral tegmental area and the nucleus accumbens (NAcc). In the left NAcc, OXT even augmented the neural response to the partner compared with a familiar woman, indicating that this finding is partner-bond specific rather than due to familiarity. Taken together, our results suggest that OXT could contribute to romantic bonds in men by enhancing their partner’s attractiveness and reward value compared with other women.

Concepts: Ventral tegmental area, Female, Basal ganglia, Dopamine, Mesolimbic pathway, Nucleus accumbens, Amphetamine, Reward system


Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) and its analogs act as appetite suppressants and have been proven to be clinically efficacious in reducing body weight in obese individuals. Central GLP-1 is expressed in a small population of brainstem cells located in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS), which project to a wide range of brain areas. However, it remains unclear how endogenous GLP-1 released in the brain contributes to appetite regulation. Using chemogenetic tools, we discovered that central GLP-1 acts on the midbrain ventral tegmental area (VTA) and suppresses high-fat food intake. We used integrated pathway tracing and synaptic physiology to further demonstrate that activation of GLP-1 receptors specifically reduces the excitatory synaptic strength of dopamine (DA) neurons within the VTA that project to the nucleus accumbens (NAc) medial shell. These data suggest that GLP-1 released from NTS neurons can reduce highly palatable food intake by suppressing mesolimbic DA signaling.

Concepts: Nervous system, Ventral tegmental area, Neuroanatomy, Basal ganglia, Appetite, Dopamine, Mesolimbic pathway, Nucleus accumbens


Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is the second most common neurodegenerative disease worldwide, affecting 1 % of the population over 65 years of age. Dopaminergic cell death in the substantia nigra and accumulation of Lewy bodies are the defining neuropathological hallmarks of the disease. Neuronal death and dysfunction have been reported in other central nervous system regions, including the retina. Symptoms of PD typically manifest only when more than 70 % of dopaminergic cells are lost, and the definitive diagnosis of PD can only be made histologically at post-mortem, with few biomarkers available.In this study, a rotenone-induced rodent model of PD was employed to investigate retinal manifestations in PD and their usefulness in assessing the efficacy of a novel therapeutic intervention with a liposomal formulation of the PPAR-γ (Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma) agonist rosiglitazone.Retinal assessment was performed using longitudinal in vivo imaging with DARC (detection of apoptosing retinal cells) and OCT (optical coherence tomography) technologies and revealed increased RGCs (Retinal Ganglion Cells) apoptosis and a transient swelling of the retinal layers at day 20 of the rotenone insult. Follow-up of this model demonstrated characteristic histological neurodegenerative changes in the substantia nigra and striatum by day 60, suggesting that retinal changes precede the “traditional” pathological manifestations of PD. The therapeutic effect of systemic administration of different formulations of rosiglitazone was then evaluated, both in the retina and the brain. Of all treatment regimen tested, sustained release administration of liposome-encapsulated rosiglitazone proved to be the most potent therapeutic strategy, as evidenced by its significant neuroprotective effect on retinal neurons at day 20, and on nigrostriatal neurons at day 60, provided convincing evidence for its potential as a treatment for PD.Our results demonstrate significant retinal changes occurring in this model of PD. We show that rosiglitazone can efficiently protect retinal neurons from the rotenone insult, and that systemic administration of liposome-encapsulated rosiglitazone has an enhanced neuroprotective effect on the retina and CNS (Central Nervous System). To our knowledge, this is the first in vivo evidence of RGCs loss and early retinal thickness alterations in a PD model. Together, these findings suggest that retinal changes may be a good surrogate biomarker for PD, which may be used to assess new treatments both experimentally and clinically.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Neurology, Basal ganglia, Substantia nigra, Retina, Dopamine