Object. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of subcortical nuclei such as the subthalamic nucleus (STN) or the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNR) may provide an alternative therapy for intractable epilepsy. The authors attempted to evaluate the antiepileptic effects of DBS to these structures in an experimental seizure model.
Methods. Three groups of rats were prepared. In the first two groups, the rats underwent unilateral implantation of stimulation electrodes in the STN (six rats) or the SNR (six rats). A control group received no electrodes (six rats). Kainic acid (KA) was systemically administered to induce limbic seizures, which started with focal seizures and became generalized secondarily. High-frequency electrical stimulation of the STN or SNR was begun immediately after KA administration, and changes on electroencephalography (EEG) and the magnitude of clinical seizures were evaluated. Results showed that STN stimulation significantly reduced the duration of generalized seizures on EEG, although the total duration of seizures (generalized plus focal seizures) was unchanged. The duration of focal seizures on EEG was prolonged by STN DBS, a result possibly due to the suppression of secondary generalization. In addition, STN DBS reduced the severity of clinical seizures. On the other hand, stimulation of the SNR demonstrated no effect.
Conclusions. Unilateral STN DBS showed significant suppression of the secondary generalization of limbic seizures. Note, however, that SNR DBS was less effective, which implies that in addition to the nigral control of the epilepsy system, another antiepileptic mechanism such as antidromic stimulation of the corticosubthalamic pathway should be considered.