Switching between responses is a key executive function known to rely on the frontal cortex and the basal ganglia. Here we aimed to establish with greater anatomical specificity whether such switching could be mediated via different possible frontal-basal-ganglia circuits. Accordingly, we stimulated dorsal vs. ventral contacts of electrodes in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) in Parkinson's patients during switching performance, and also studied matched controls. The patients underwent three sessions: once with bilateral dorsal contact stimulation, once with bilateral ventral contact stimulation, and once Off stimulation. Patients Off stimulation showed abnormal patterns of switching, and stimulation of the ventral contacts but not the dorsal contacts normalized the pattern of behavior relative to controls. This provides some of the first evidence in humans that stimulation of dorsal vs. ventral STN DBS contacts has differential effects on executive function. As response switching is an executive function known to rely on prefrontal cortex, these results suggest that ventral contact stimulation affected an executive/associative cortico-basal ganglia circuit.
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