Deep Brain Stimulation and L-DOPA Therapy: Concepts of Action and Clinical Applications in Parkinson's Disease

Front Neurol. 2018 Aug 27;9:711. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2018.00711. eCollection 2018.


L-DOPA is still the most effective pharmacological therapy for the treatment of motor symptoms in Parkinson's disease (PD) almost four decades after it was first used. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a safe and highly effective treatment option in patients with PD. Even though a clear understanding of the mechanisms of both treatment methods is yet to be obtained, the combination of both treatments is the most effective standard evidenced-based therapy to date. Recent studies have demonstrated that DBS is a therapy option even in the early course of the disease, when first complications arise despite a rigorous adjustment of the pharmacological treatment. The unique feature of this therapeutic approach is the ability to preferentially modulate specific brain networks through the choice of stimulation site. The clinical effects have been unequivocally confirmed in recent studies; however, the impact of DBS and the supplementary effect of L-DOPA on the neuronal network are not yet fully understood. In this review, we present emerging data on the presumable mechanisms of DBS in patients with PD and discuss the pathophysiological similarities and differences in the effects of DBS in comparison to dopaminergic medication. Targeted, selective modulation of brain networks by DBS and pharmacodynamic effects of L-DOPA therapy on the central nervous system are presented. Moreover, we outline the perioperative algorithms for PD patients before and directly after the implantation of DBS electrodes and strategies for the reduction of side effects and optimization of motor and non-motor symptoms.

Keywords: Parkinson's disease; deep brain stimulation (DBS); globus pallidus internus (GPi); levodopa; subthalamic nucleus (STN).

Publication types

  • Review