New discovery leads to better understanding of Parkinson's disease


The ULB Neuroscience Institute has just revealed that the NMDA receptor for glutamate, a primordial gene in synaptic plasticity, plays a major role in the phenomena of procedural memory and motor control. This discovery provides a deeper insight into pathologies such as Parkinson's disease and drug addictions.

In an article that appeared in the Journal of Neuroscience, Alban de Kerchove d’Exaerde and his team demonstrate the importance of this glutamate gene in the cellular mechanism of memorisation within the inhibitory circuit in the basal nuclei. This is a collection of clusters in the subcortical brain that plays an important role in motor skill learning and the reward circuit. These are both affected by Parkinson's disease and drug addiction.

The researchers show that the loss of this gene affects the neuronal structure and decreases neuronal excitability. This results in a reduction of both habituated and associative behaviour, which we use daily in our learning, as well as our motor skill learning strategies.

This discovery reveals not only the pivotal role of this gene in memory phenomena and their related pathologies, but also the level of excellence of the ULB Neuroscience Institute. This institute, with its 4 faculties, 17 laboratories and 150 researchers, promotes a new approach to gain insight into brain development as well as the degeneration of the cognitive functions that may lead to diseases such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.