Objective: Cortical electrical stimulation (CES) can modulate cortical excitability through a plasticity-like mechanism and is considered to have therapeutic potentials in Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, the precise therapeutic value of such approach for PD remains unclear. Accordingly, we adopted a PD rat model to determine the therapeutic effects of CES. The current study was thus designed to identify the therapeutic potential of CES in PD rats. Methods: A hemiparkinsonian rat model, in which lesions were induced using unilateral injection of 6-hydroxydopamine (6-OHDA) into the medial forebrain bundle, was applied to identify the therapeutic effects of long-term (4-week) CES with intermittent theta-burst stimulation (iTBS) protocol (starting 24 h after PD lesion observation, 1 session/day, 5 days/week) on motor function and neuroprotection. After the CES intervention, detailed functional behavioral tests including gait analysis, akinesia, open-field locomotor activity, apomorphine-induced rotation as well as degeneration level of dopaminergic neurons were performed weekly up to postlesion week 4. Results: After the CES treatment, we found that the 4-week CES intervention ameliorated the motor deficits in gait pattern, akinesia, locomotor activity, and apomorphine-induced rotation. Immunohistochemistry and tyrosine hydroxylase staining analysis demonstrated that the number of dopamine neurons was significantly greater in the CES intervention group than in the sham treatment group. Conclusion: This study suggests that early and long-term CES intervention could reduce the aggravation of motor dysfunction and exert neuroprotective effects in a rat model of PD. Further, this preclinical model of CES may increase the scope for the potential use of CES and serve as a link between animal and PD human studies to further identify the therapeutic mechanism of CES for PD or other neurological disorders.
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