Neurobiology of disease

Age-dependent alterations in the cortical entrainment of subthalamic nucleus neurons in the YAC128 mouse model of Huntington's disease.

PMID 25772440


Huntington's disease (HD) is an autosomal dominant neurodegenerative disorder that results in motor, cognitive and psychiatric abnormalities. Dysfunction in neuronal processing between the cortex and the basal ganglia is fundamental to the onset and progression of the HD phenotype. The corticosubthalamic hyperdirect pathway plays a crucial role in motor selection and blockade of neuronal activity in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) results in hyperkinetic movement abnormalities, similar to the motor symptoms associated with HD. The aim of the present study was to examine whether changes in the fidelity of information transmission between the cortex and the STN emerge as a function of phenotypic severity in the YAC128 mouse model of HD. We obtained in vivo extracellular recordings in the STN and concomitant electrocorticogram (ECoG) recordings during discrete brain states that reflected global cortical network synchronization or desynchronization. At early ages in YAC128 mice, both the cortex and the STN exhibited patterns of hyperexcitability. As symptom severity progressed, cortical entrainment of STN activity was disrupted and there was an increase in the proportion of non-oscillating, tonically firing STN neurons that were less phase-locked to cortical activity. Concomitant to the dissipation of STN entrainment, there was a reduction in the evoked response of STN neurons to focal cortical stimulation. The spontaneous discharge of STN neurons in YAC128 mice also decreased with age and symptom severity. These results indicate dysfunction in the flow of information within the corticosubthalamic circuit and demonstrate progressive age-related disconnection of the hyperdirect pathway in a transgenic mouse model of HD.