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Vance T. Lehman, Kendall H. Lee, Bryan T. Klassen, Daniel J. Blezek, Abhinav Goyal, Bhavya R. Shah, Krzysztof R. Gorny, John Huston III, and Timothy J. Kaufmann

The thalamic ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) can be targeted for treatment of tremor by several procedures, including deep brain stimulation (DBS) and, more recently, MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS). To date, such targeting has relied predominantly on coordinate-based or atlas-based techniques rather than directly targeting the VIM based on imaging features. While general regional differences of features within the thalamus and some related white matter tracts can be distinguished with conventional imaging techniques, internal nuclei such as the VIM are not discretely visualized. Advanced imaging methods such as quantitative susceptibility mapping (QSM) and fast gray matter acquisition T1 inversion recovery (FGATIR) MRI and high-field MRI pulse sequences that improve the ability to image the VIM region are emerging but have not yet been shown to have reliability and accuracy to serve as the primary method of VIM targeting. Currently, the most promising imaging approach to directly identify the VIM region for clinical purposes is MR diffusion tractography.

In this review and update, the capabilities and limitations of conventional and emerging advanced methods for evaluation of internal thalamic anatomy are briefly reviewed. The basic principles of tractography most relevant to VIM targeting are provided for familiarization. Next, the key literature to date addressing applications of DTI and tractography for DBS and MRgFUS is summarized, emphasizing use of direct targeting. This literature includes 1-tract (dentatorubrothalamic tract [DRT]), 2-tract (pyramidal and somatosensory), and 3-tract (DRT, pyramidal, and somatosensory) approaches to VIM region localization through tractography.

The authors introduce a 3-tract technique used at their institution, illustrating the oblique curved course of the DRT within the inferior thalamus as well as the orientation and relationship of the white matter tracts in the axial plane. The utility of this 3-tract tractography approach to facilitate VIM localization is illustrated with case examples of variable VIM location, targeting superior to the anterior commissure–posterior commissure plane, and treatment in the setting of pathologic derangement of thalamic anatomy. Finally, concepts demonstrated with these case examples and from the prior literature are synthesized to highlight several potential advantages of tractography for VIM region targeting.

Free access

Jamie J. Van Gompel, Bryan T. Klassen, Gregory A. Worrell, Kendall H. Lee, Cheolsu Shin, Cong Zhi Zhao, Desmond A. Brown, Steven J. Goerss, Bruce A. Kall, and Matt Stead


Anterior nuclear (AN) stimulation has been reported to reduce the frequency of seizures, in some cases dramatically; however, it has not been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. The anterior nucleus is difficult to target because of its sequestered location, partially surrounded by the ventricle. It has traditionally been targeted by using transventricular or lateral transcortical routes. Here, the authors report a novel approach to targeting the anterior nucleus and neurophysiologically confirming effective stimulation of the target, namely evoked potentials in the hippocampus.


Bilateral AN 3389 electrodes were placed in a novel trajectory followed by bilateral hippocampal 3391 electrodes from a posterior trajectory. Each patient was implanted bilaterally with a Medtronic Activa PC+S device under an investigational device exemption approval. Placement was confirmed with CT. AN stimulation-induced hippocampal evoked potentials were measured to functionally confirm placement in the anterior nucleus.


Two patients had implantations by way of a novel AN trajectory with concomitant hippocampal electrodes. There were no lead misplacements. Postoperative stimulation of the anterior nucleus with a PC+S device elicited evoked potentials in the hippocampus. Thus far, both patients have reported a > 50% improvement in seizure frequency.


Placing AN electrodes posteriorly may provide a safer trajectory than that used for traditionally placed AN electrodes. In addition, with a novel battery that is capable of electroencephalographic recording, evoked potentials can be used to functionally assess the Papez circuit. This treatment paradigm may offer increased AN stimulation efficacy for medically intractable epilepsy by assessing functional placement more effectively and thus far has proven safe.

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William S. Gibson, Aaron E. Rusheen, Yoonbae Oh, Myung-Ho In, Krzysztof R. Gorny, Joel P. Felmlee, Bryan T. Klassen, Sung Jun Jung, Hoon-Ki Min, Kendall H. Lee, and Hang Joon Jo


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.