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Neurophysiological effects of stimulation through electrodes in the human subthalamic nucleus

P. Ashby, Y. J. Kim, R. Kumar, A. E. Lang, A. M. Lozano
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/brain/122.10.1919 1919-1931 First published online: 1 October 1999


The effects of stimulation through macroelectrodes implanted in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) were studied in 14 patients with parkinsonism. Single stimuli delivered directly to the STN electrodes with an external stimulator modulated voluntary electromyography (EMG) of contralateral muscles in most patients. A short-latency facilitation (`peak') was attributed to the activation of the corticospinal system. A longer latency inhibition (`dip'), often preceded or followed by facilitations, appeared to arise from the activation of large-diameter fibres running parallel to the electrode and to be transmitted through the motor cortex. It is possible that the dip could result from the inhibition of thalamocortical neurons. With high-frequency stimulation (~100 Hz) the peaks occurred at the stimulus frequency; the dips became confluent and outlasted the duration of the stimulus train. There was no evidence that high-frequency stimulation produced `blocking'. The studies were repeated in 12 patients a mean of 5.8 months after implantation of the stimulator. The same short-latency effects were obtained. They were present on 7 out of 23 sides at the settings in use and on the majority of sides if the stimulus intensity was slightly increased. There was no clear relationship between these short-latency effects and the patients' overall clinical improvement; the effects may result from the spread of current to large-fibre systems near the STN. In five patients, high-frequency stimulation on one side immediately reduced tremor in the contralateral limbs. This effect arose from the activation of large-diameter fibres and, like the dip, had about the same threshold at each of the contacts. Frequencies as low as 70 Hz were sufficient. We conclude that the control of tremor by STN stimulation is due to the activation of a large-fibre system.

  • parkinsonism
  • subthalamic nucleus
  • deep brain stimulation
  • C–T = condition–test
  • FDI = first dorsal interosseous
  • GPE = globus pallidus externus
  • GPI = globus pallidus internus
  • MEP = motor evoked potential
  • MPTP = 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6 tetrahydropyridine
  • SNPR = substantia nigra pars reticulata
  • STN = subthalamic nucleus
  • UPDRS = Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale
    • Received November 30, 1998.
    • Revision received April 29, 1999.
    • Accepted May 10, 1999.
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