Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) alleviates motor symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). However, the underlying mechanism of tremor suppression is not well understood. Stimulation of white matter tracts, such as the dentatorubrothalamic tract (DRT), might be involved. Also, side effects, including dysarthria, might result from (unwanted) stimulation of white matter tracts in proximity to the STN. The aim of this study was to establish an association between stimulation effect on tremor and dysarthria and stimulation location relative to relevant white matter tracts.
In 35 PD patients in whom a bilateral STN DBS system was implanted, the authors established clinical outcome measures per electrode contact. The distance from each stimulation location to the center of the DRT, corticopontocerebellar tract, pyramidal tract (PT), and medial lemniscus was determined using diffusion-weighted MRI data. Clinical outcome measures were subsequently related to the distances to the white matter tracts.
Patients with activated contacts closer to the DRT showed increased tremor improvement. Proximity of activated contacts to the PT was associated with dysarthria.
Proximity to specific white matter tracts is associated with tremor outcome and side effects in DBS. This knowledge can help to optimize both electrode placement and postsurgical electrode contact selection. Presurgical white matter tract visualization may improve targeting and DBS outcome. These findings are of interest not only for treatment in PD, but potentially also for other (movement) disorders.