The nigrostriatal pathway, or the nigrostriatal bundle (NSB), is a dopaminergic pathway that connects the substantia nigra with the striatum. It is one of the four major dopamine pathways in the brain, and is particularly involved in the production of movement, as part of a system called the basal ganglia motor loop. Dopamine releasing neurons of this pathway release several other neurotransmitters, including glutamate and GABA.
Loss of dopamine neurons in the substantia nigra is one of the main pathological features of Parkinson's disease, leading to a marked reduction in dopamine function in this pathway. The symptoms of the disease typically do not show themselves until 80-90% of dopamine function has been lost.
This pathway is also implicated in producing tardive dyskinesia, one of the side-effects of antipsychotic drugs. These medications (in particular the older typical antipsychotics) block D2 dopamine receptors in multiple pathways in the brain.
The desired clinical effect of reducing psychotic symptoms is thought to be associated with blocking dopamine function in the mesolimbic pathway only. However, as many of these drugs are not selective, they block dopamine in all pathways. When this happens in the nigrostriatal pathway, similar movement problems to those found in Parkinson's disease can occur.
Other dopamine pathways
Other major dopamine pathways include:
- Tritsch NX, Ding JB, Sabatini BL. Dopaminergic neurons inhibit striatal output through non-canonical release of GABA. Nature. 2012 Oct 11;490(7419):262-6. doi: 10.1038/nature11466. Epub 2012 Oct 3. PubMed PMID 23034651; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3944587
- Tecuapetla F, Patel JC, Xenias H, English D, Tadros I, Shah F, Berlin J, Deisseroth K, Rice ME, Tepper JM, Koos T. Glutamatergic signaling by mesolimbic dopamine neurons in the nucleus accumbens. J Neurosci. 2010 May 19;30(20):7105-10. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0265-10.2010. PubMed PMID 20484653; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3842465
- Diaz, Jaime. How Drugs Influence Behavior. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1996.