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Dopamine neuron activity encodes the length of upcoming contralateral movement sequences

Research and Publication

Authors: Marcelo D. Mendonça, Joaquim Alves da Silva, Ledia F. Hernandez, Ivan Castela, José Obeso, Rui M. Costa
Publication: Current Biology
Date: February 19, 2024
Link to article: https://www.cell.com/current-biology/fulltext/S0960-9822(24)00104-0


Dopaminergic neurons (DANs) in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNc) have been related to movement speed, and loss of these neurons leads to bradykinesia in Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, other aspects of movement vigor are also affected in PD; for example, movement sequences are typically shorter. However, the relationship between the activity of DANs and the length of movement sequences is unknown. We imaged activity of SNc DANs in mice trained in a freely moving operant task, which relies on individual forelimb sequences. We uncovered a similar proportion of SNc DANs increasing their activity before either ipsilateral or contralateral sequences. However, the magnitude of this activity was higher for contralateral actions and was related to contralateral but not ipsilateral sequence length. In contrast, the activity of reward-modulated DANs, largely distinct from those modulated by movement, was not lateralized. Finally, unilateral dopamine depletion impaired contralateral, but not ipsilateral, sequence length. These results indicate that movement-initiation DANs encode more than a general motivation signal and invigorate aspects of contralateral movements.

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