Deep brain stimulation for stroke: Current uses and future directions

Brain Stimul. Jan-Feb 2018;11(1):3-28. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2017.10.005. Epub 2017 Oct 12.


Background: Survivors of stroke often experience significant disability and impaired quality of life related to ongoing maladaptive responses and persistent neurologic deficits. Novel therapeutic options are urgently needed to augment current approaches. One way to promote recovery and ameliorate symptoms may be to electrically stimulate the surviving brain. Various forms of brain stimulation have been investigated for use in stroke, including deep brain stimulation (DBS).

Objective/methods: We conducted a comprehensive literature review in order to 1) review the use of DBS to treat post-stroke maladaptive responses including pain, dystonia, dyskinesias, and tremor and 2) assess the use and potential utility of DBS for enhancing plasticity and recovery from post-stroke neurologic deficits.

Results/conclusions: A large variety of brain structures have been targeted in post-stroke patients, including motor thalamus, sensory thalamus, basal ganglia nuclei, internal capsule, and periventricular/periaqueductal grey. Overall, the reviewed clinical literature suggests a role for DBS in the management of several post-stroke maladaptive responses. More limited evidence was identified regarding DBS for post-stroke motor deficits, although existing work tentatively suggests DBS-particularly DBS targeting the posterior limb of the internal capsule-may improve paresis in certain circumstances. Substantial future work is required both to establish optimal targets and parameters for treatment of maladapative responses and to further investigate the effectiveness of DBS for post-stroke paresis.

Keywords: Deep brain stimulation; Movement disorder; Neuroplasticity; Pain; Paresis; Stroke.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Basal Ganglia / physiology
  • Deep Brain Stimulation / methods*
  • Humans
  • Internal Capsule / physiology
  • Periaqueductal Gray / physiology
  • Stroke / therapy*
  • Thalamus / physiology