Human Subthalamic Nucleus Theta and Beta Oscillations Entrain Neuronal Firing During Sensorimotor Conflict

Cereb Cortex. 2017 Jan 1;27(1):496-508. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhv244.


Recent evidence has suggested that prefrontal cortical structures may inhibit impulsive actions during conflict through activation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN). Consistent with this hypothesis, deep brain stimulation to the STN has been associated with altered prefrontal cortical activity and impaired response inhibition. The interactions between oscillatory activity in the STN and its presumably antikinetic neuronal spiking, however, remain poorly understood. Here, we simultaneously recorded intraoperative local field potential and spiking activity from the human STN as participants performed a sensorimotor action selection task involving conflict. We identified several STN neuronal response types that exhibited different temporal dynamics during the task. Some neurons showed early, cue-related firing rate increases that remained elevated longer during high conflict trials, whereas other neurons showed late, movement-related firing rate increases. Notably, the high conflict trials were associated with an entrainment of individual neurons by theta- and beta-band oscillations, both of which have been observed in cortical structures involved in response inhibition. Our data suggest that frequency-specific activity in the beta and theta bands influence STN firing to inhibit impulsivity during conflict.

Keywords: conflict; deep brain stimulation; impulsivity; inhibition; theta oscillations.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Conflict, Psychological*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / physiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Subthalamic Nucleus / physiology*