Animal Models of Tremor: Relevance to Human Tremor Disorders
Background: Tremor is the most common movement disorder; however, the pathophysiology of tremor remains elusive. While several neuropathological alterations in tremor disorders have been observed in post-mortem studies of human brains, a full understanding of the relationship between brain circuitry alterations and tremor requires testing in animal models. Additionally, tremor animal models are critical for our understanding of tremor pathophysiology, and/or to serve as a platform for therapy development.
Methods: A PubMed search was conducted in May 2018 to identify published papers for review.
Results: The methodology used in most studies on animal models of tremor lacks standardized measurement of tremor frequency and amplitude; instead, these studies are based on the visual inspection of phenotypes, which may fail to delineate tremor from other movement disorders such as ataxia. Of the animal models with extensive tremor characterization, harmaline-induced rodent tremor models provide an important framework showing that rhythmic and synchronous neuronal activities within the olivocerebellar circuit can drive action tremor. In addition, dopamine-depleted monkey and mouse models may develop rest tremor, highlighting the role of dopamine in rest tremor generation. Finally, other animal models of tremor have involvement of the cerebellar circuitry, leading to altered Purkinje cell physiology.
Discussion: Both the cerebellum and the basal ganglia are likely to play a role in tremor generation. While the cerebellar circuitry can generate rhythmic movements, the nigrostriatal system is likely to modulate the tremor circuit. Tremor disorders are heterogeneous in nature. Therefore, each animal model may represent a subset of tremor disorders, which collectively can advance our understanding of tremor.