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Melanie A. Morrison, Anthony T. Lee, Alastair J. Martin, Cameron Dietiker, Ethan G. Brown, and Doris D. Wang


Direct visualization of the ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) of the thalamus on standard MRI sequences remains elusive. Therefore, deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery for essential tremor (ET) indirectly targets the VIM using atlas-derived consensus coordinates and requires awake intraoperative testing to confirm clinical benefits. The objective of this study was to evaluate the utility of proton density (PD)–weighted MRI and tractography of the intersecting dentato-rubro-thalamic tract (DRTT) for direct “intersectional” targeting of the VIM in ET.


DBS targets were selected by identifying the VIM on PD-weighted images relative to the DRTT in 2 patients with ET. Tremor reduction was confirmed with intraoperative clinical testing. Intended target coordinates based on the direct intersectional targeting technique were compared with consensus coordinates obtained with indirect targeting. Pre- and postoperative tremor scores were assessed using the Fahn-Tolosa-Marin tremor rating scale (TRS).


Planned DBS coordinates based on direct versus indirect targeting of the VIM differed in both the anteroposterior (range 0 to 2.3) and lateral (range −0.7 to 1) directions. For 1 patient, indirect targeting—without PD-weighted visualization of the VIM and DRTT—would have likely resulted in suboptimal electrode placement within the VIM. At the 3-month follow-up, both patients demonstrated significant improvement in tremor symptoms subjectively and according to the TRS (case 1: 68%, case 2: 72%).


Direct intersectional targeting of the VIM using PD-weighted imaging and DRTT tractography is a feasible method for DBS placement in patients with ET. These advanced targeting techniques can supplement awake intraoperative testing or be used independently in asleep cases to improve surgical efficiency and confidence.

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Melanie A. Morrison, Fred Tam, Marco M. Garavaglia, Laleh Golestanirad, Gregory M. T. Hare, Michael D. Cusimano, Tom A. Schweizer, Sunit Das, and Simon J. Graham

A computerized platform has been developed to enhance behavioral testing during intraoperative language mapping in awake craniotomy procedures. The system is uniquely compatible with the environmental demands of both the operating room and preoperative functional MRI (fMRI), thus providing standardized testing toward improving spatial agreement between the 2 brain mapping techniques. Details of the platform architecture, its advantages over traditional testing methods, and its use for language mapping are described. Four illustrative cases demonstrate the efficacy of using the testing platform to administer sophisticated language paradigms, and the spatial agreement between intraoperative mapping and preoperative fMRI results. The testing platform substantially improved the ability of the surgeon to detect and characterize language deficits. Use of a written word generation task to assess language production helped confirm areas of speech apraxia and speech arrest that were inadequately characterized or missed with the use of traditional paradigms, respectively. Preoperative fMRI of the analogous writing task was also assistive, displaying excellent spatial agreement with intraoperative mapping in all 4 cases. Sole use of traditional testing paradigms can be limiting during awake craniotomy procedures. Comprehensive assessment of language function will require additional use of more sophisticated and ecologically valid testing paradigms. The platform presented here provides a means to do so.