Background: Long-term high-frequency stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) improves akinesia in Parkinson disease. The neural correlates of STN stimulation are not well understood. Positron emission tomography can be applied to the in vivo study of the mechanisms of deep brain stimulation.
Objective: To study changes in regional cerebral blood flow as an index of synaptic activity in patients with Parkinson disease with effective STN stimulation on and off during rest and movement.
Methods: Eight patients with Parkinson disease who had electrodes implanted in the STN underwent 12 measurements of regional cerebral blood flow with water O 15 positron emission tomography at rest and during performance of paced freely selected joystick movements, both with and without STN stimulation (3 scans per experimental condition). Motor performance and reaction and movement times were monitored. Statistical parametric mapping was used to compare changes in regional cerebral blood flow between conditions and differences in activation.
Results: All patients showed improvement in reaction and movement times during scans with the stimulator on. As predicted, increases in activation of rostral supplementary motor area and premotor cortex ipsilateral to stimulation were observed when stimulation was on during contralateral movement (P<.001). Unpredicted observations included decreases in regional cerebral blood flow in primary motor cortex at rest induced by STN stimulation.
Conclusion: Stimulation of the STN reduces the movement-related impairment of frontal motor association areas and the inappropriate motor cortex resting activity in Parkinson disease.