Background and purpose: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN) reduces the number of falls in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). It was hypothesized that enhanced sensory processing contributes to this PPN-mediated gait improvement.
Methods: Four PD patients (and eight matched controls) with implanted bilateral PPN and subthalamic nucleus DBS electrodes were assessed on postural (with/without vision) and vestibular perceptual threshold tasks.
Results: Pedunculopontine nucleus ON stimulation (compared to OFF) lowered vestibular perceptual thresholds but there was a disproportionate increase in the normal sway increase on going from light to dark.
Conclusions: The disproportionate increased sway with PPN stimulation in the dark may paradoxically improve balance function since mechanoreceptor signals rapidly adapt to continuous pressure stimulation from postural akinesia. Additionally, the PPN-mediated vestibular signal enhancement also improves the monitoring of postural sway. Overall, PPN stimulation may improve sensory feedback and hence balance performance.
Keywords: balance; deep brain stimulation; sensory integration; sway; vision.
© 2016 The Authors. European Journal of Neurology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of European Academy of Neurology.