The aim of the current study was to examine and compare the aftereffects of local high-frequency microstimulation through the recording electrode on the firing of neurons in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) and the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr) in patients undergoing surgery for deep brain stimulation. Deep brain stimulation has been playing an increasing role in the treatment of Parkinson disease, with the subthalamic nucleus (STN) being the preferred implantation target. Changes in cellular activity indicative of the borders of the STN are typically used during surgery to determine the extent of the STN and locate the optimal target, but in some cases borders may be difficult to identify. In this study the authors compared the effects of microstimulation in the SNr and STN. In previous studies they have shown that microstimulation in the internal globus pallidus, which is functionally similar to the SNr, inhibits firing, whereas similar microstimulation in the STN has minimal effect. The presence of inhibition in the SNr but not in the STN could be used as an additional criterion to help identify the location of the border between the STN and SNr.
Dual microelectrode recordings were performed during stereotactic surgery in 4 patients. Well-isolated high-amplitude units were stimulated extracellularly through the recording microelectrode with 0.5-second trains of high frequency (200 Hz) and low current (≤ 5 μA).
In the majority (92%) of SNr neurons, this type of stimulation led to a period of inhibition lasting several hundreds of milliseconds following the end of the train. In contrast, only 1 neuron of 70 judged to be in the STN by other criteria was inhibited by this type of microstimulation, and this neuron was located at the ventral border of the STN.
These findings indicate that prolonged inhibition of firing following low-amplitude high-frequency microstimulation via the recording electrode is a consistent feature of almost all SNr neurons and rarely if ever occurs in STN neurons. This feature therefore provides a useful additional finding that can be used to help identify the border between the STN and SNr.