Electrophysiological localization of the substantia nigra in the parkinsonian nonhuman primate

P. A. Starr, T. Subramanian, R. A.E. Bakay, T. Wichmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


During ablative surgery and implantation of deep-brain stimulators for the treatment of movement disorders, electrophysiological techniques are often used for localization of subcortical targets. New restorative therapies for Parkinson disease, aimed at delivering drugs or cells to the substantia nigra (SN), are becoming available. Therefore, precise surgical approaches to the dopaminergic cell-containing region of the SN are required to avoid damage to nearby structures such as the corticospinal tract and subthalamic nucleus. In a study conducted in nonhuman primates, the authors evaluated the utility and accuracy of electrophysiological techniques in localizing the SN. Three adult rhesus monkeys were used as hosts for intranigral cell transplants. The monkeys were rendered hemiparkinsonian by intracarotid injection of 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine. With the aid of stereotactic guidance, chronic recording chambers were placed on the skull of each monkey and directed at the SN. In each monkey, 20 to 40 trajectories were explored with a microelectrode. Spontaneous and movement-related single-unit activities were recorded in the SN, pars reticulata, subthalamic nucleus, globus pallidus, striatum, thalamus, and red nucleus. Motor and ocular responses to microstimulation in the subthalamic area were noted. Using the electrophysiological and stereotactic information that was obtained, three-dimensional maps of the nigral complex were constructed to infer the location of the SN pars compacta. The maps were subsequently used to guide intranigral placement of fetal dopaminergic cells. Accurate delivery was verified by histological analysis. Based on the characteristic electrophysiological properties of the SN and surrounding structures in the parkinsonian state, microelectrode recording techniques may be used to ensure accurate placement of cell transplantation in the intranigral region.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)704-710
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of neurosurgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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