Neurophysiological refinement of subthalamic nucleus targeting

Neurosurgery. 2002 Jan;50(1):58-67; discussion 67-9. doi: 10.1097/00006123-200201000-00012.


Objective: Advances in image-guided stereotactic surgery, microelectrode recording techniques, and stimulation technology have been the driving forces behind a resurgence in the use of functional neurosurgery for the treatment of movement disorders. Despite the dramatic effects of deep brain stimulation (DBS) techniques in ameliorating the symptoms of Parkinson's disease, many critical questions related to the targeting, effects, and mechanisms of action of DBS remain unanswered. In this report, we describe the methods used to localize the subthalamic nucleus (STN) and we present the characteristics of encountered cells.

Methods: Twenty-six patients with idiopathic Parkinson's disease underwent simultaneous, bilateral, microelectrode-refined, DBS electrode implantation into the STN. Direct and indirect magnetic resonance imaging-based anatomic targeting was used. Cellular activity was analyzed for various neurophysiological parameters, including firing rates and interspike intervals. Physiological targeting confirmation was obtained by performing macrostimulation through the final DBS electrode.

Results: The average microelectrode recording time for each trajectory was 20 minutes, with a mean of 5.2 trajectories/patient. Typical trajectories passed through the anterior thalamus, zona incerta/fields of Forel, STN, and substantia nigra-pars reticulata. Each structure exhibited a characteristic firing pattern. In particular, recordings from the STN exhibited an increase in background activity and an irregular firing pattern, with a mean rate of 47 Hz. The mean cell density was 5.6 cells/mm, with an average maximal trajectory length of 5.3 mm. Macrostimulation via the DBS electrode yielded mean sensory and motor thresholds of 4.2 and 5.7 V, respectively.

Conclusion: The principal objectives of microelectrode recording refinement of anatomic targeting are precise identification of the borders of the STN and thus determination of its maximal length. Microelectrode recording also allows identification of the longest and most lateral segment of the STN, which is our preferred target for STN DBS electrode implantation. Macrostimulation via the final DBS electrode is then used primarily to establish the side effect profile for postoperative stimulation. Microelectrode recording is a helpful targeting adjunct that will continue to facilitate our understanding of basal ganglion physiological features.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Dominance, Cerebral / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy / instrumentation*
  • Electrodes, Implanted*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Microelectrodes
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Parkinson Disease / surgery*
  • Stereotaxic Techniques*
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / physiopathology
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / surgery*