Striatal plasticity in parkinsonism: dystrophic changes in medium spiny neurons and progression in Parkinson’s disease

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Summary

Striatal dopamine loss in Parkinson’s Disease (PD) sets into play a variety of compensatory responses to help counter dopamine depletion. Most of these changes involve surviving dopamine neurons, but there are also changes in striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs), which are the major target of dopamine axons. Among these changes are decreases in MSN dendritic length and spine density, which may dampen excessive corticostriatal glutamatergic drive onto MSNs that occurs secondary to dopamine loss. An increasing knowledge of dendritic changes in PD suggests strategies for tracking progressive worsening of symptoms and is opening new ideas on novel therapeutic strategies for PD.