Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) is an established neurosurgical treatment for the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD). While often highly effective, DBS does not always yield optimal therapeutic outcomes, and stimulation-induced adverse effects, including paresthesia, muscle contractions, and nausea/lightheadedness, commonly occur and can limit the efficacy of stimulation. Currently, objective metrics do not exist for monitoring neural changes associated with stimulation-induced therapeutic and adverse effects.
In the present study, the authors combined intraoperative functional MRI (fMRI) with STN DBS in 20 patients with PD to test the hypothesis that stimulation-induced blood oxygen level–dependent signals contained predictive information concerning the therapeutic and adverse effects of stimulation.
As expected, DBS resulted in blood oxygen level–dependent activation in myriad motor regions, including the primary motor cortex, caudate, putamen, thalamus, midbrain, and cerebellum. Across the patients, DBS-induced improvements in contralateral Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale tremor subscores correlated with activation of thalamic, brainstem, and cerebellar regions. In addition, improvements in rigidity and bradykinesia subscores correlated with activation of the primary motor cortex. Finally, activation of specific sensorimotor-related subregions correlated with the presence of DBS-induced adverse effects, including paresthesia and nausea (cerebellar cortex, sensorimotor cortex) and unwanted muscle contractions (caudate and putamen).
These results suggest that DBS-induced activation patterns revealed by fMRI contain predictive information with respect to the therapeutic and adverse effects of DBS. The use of fMRI in combination with DBS therefore may hold translational potential to guide and improve clinical stimulator optimization in patients.