Yin Lab discovers new ‘super-direct’ functional pathway in the brain

brain pathway scans

Members of the Yin Lab including supervisor Dr. Henry Yin, former post-doctoral associate Dr. Glenn Watson, and current Ph.D. candidate in the Systems and Integrative Neuroscience program Ryan Hughes, have discovered a new functional pathway in the brain going from the parafascicular nucleus of the thalamus to the subthalamic nucleus, naming it the ‘super-direct’ pathway. In a recently published paper in AAAS, the team found that by selectively stimulating this pathway, movement and natural behavior were restored in Parkinsonian mice. The discovery opens the door to developing new therapeutic treatments for Parkinson's disease and improves understanding of the circuits responsible for movement and movement disorders. In Parkinson's disease, dopamine neurons die. Typically Parkinson’s patients will be put on a dopamine replacement therapy. However, it often loses its effectiveness, or simply does not work. In such cases neurosurgeons will then often use deep brain stimulation (DBS) and put electrodes into the subthalamic nucleus, a region of the brain involved in the basal ganglia network where dopamine is plays an important role.