Dependence of subthalamic nucleus oscillations on movement and dopamine in Parkinson's disease

Brain. 2002 Jun;125(Pt 6):1196-209. doi: 10.1093/brain/awf128.


Local field potentials and pairs of neurones in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) of patients with Parkinson's disease show high-frequency oscillations (HFOs) at 15-30 Hz. This study explores how these HFOs are modulated by voluntary movements and by dopaminergic medication. We examined 15 patients undergoing implantation of bilateral deep brain stimulating electrodes using microelectrode recordings of pairs of STN neurones (eight patients) and macroelectrode recordings of local field potentials from the STN (14 patients). Synchronized HFOs between STN neurones were observed in 28 out of 37 pairs in five patients who had tremor in the operating room and none of 45 pairs in three patients who did not. In two of the three non-tremulous patients, HFOs in the frequency spectra of local field potentials were detected but were weaker than in those patients with tremor. Active movement suppressed synchronized HFOs in three out of five pairs of neurones, independent of changes in firing rate. HFOs observed in the local field potentials in nine out of 14 patients were reduced with voluntary movement in six of the eight patients tested. Dopaminergic medication decreased the incidence of synchronized HFOs in STN neurone pairs, reduced HFO synchrony in a pair of tremor cells concurrent with a reduction in firing rate and limb tremor, and decreased HFOs of local field potentials in the STN. These results demonstrate that HFO synchronization in the STN is reduced by voluntary movements and by exogenous dopaminergic medication. A mechanism for neuronal oscillatory synchronization in basal ganglia is proposed. It is suggested that the firing of STN neurones can be synchronized by 15-30 Hz cortical beta oscillatory activity, particularly when dopamine deficiency results in a higher background firing rate of STN neurones, and that this synchronization contributes to parkinsonian pathophysiology.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Biological Clocks / drug effects
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Dopamine / physiology
  • Dopamine Agents / pharmacology*
  • Dopamine Agents / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Levodopa / pharmacology
  • Levodopa / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Intraoperative / methods
  • Monitoring, Intraoperative / statistics & numerical data
  • Movement / drug effects
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Parkinson Disease / drug therapy
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology*
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / drug effects
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / physiology*


  • Dopamine Agents
  • Levodopa
  • Dopamine