Effects of anterior thalamic nuclei stimulation on hippocampal activity: Chronic recording in a patient with drug-resistant focal epilepsy

Epilepsy Behav Rep. 2021 Jun 30:16:100467. doi: 10.1016/j.ebr.2021.100467. eCollection 2021.


Implanted neurostimulation devices are gaining traction as palliative treatment options for certain forms of drug-resistant epilepsy, but clinical utility of these devices is hindered by incomplete mechanistic understanding of their therapeutic effects. Approved devices for anterior thalamic nuclei deep brain stimulation (ANT DBS) are thought to work at a network level, but limited sensing capability precludes characterization of neurophysiological effects outside the thalamus. Here, we describe a patient with drug-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy who was implanted with a responsive neurostimulation device (RNS System), involving hippocampal and ipsilateral temporal neocortical leads, and subsequently received ANT DBS. Over 1.5 years, RNS System electrocorticography enabled multiscale characterization of neurophysiological effects of thalamic stimulation. In brain regions sampled by the RNS System, ANT DBS produced acute, phasic, frequency-dependent responses, including suppression of hippocampal low frequency local field potentials. ANT DBS modulated functional connectivity between hippocampus and neocortex. Finally, ANT DBS progressively suppressed hippocampal epileptiform activity in relation to the extent of hippocampal theta suppression, which informs stimulation parameter selection for ANT DBS. Taken together, this unique clinical scenario, involving hippocampal recordings of unprecedented chronicity alongside ANT DBS, sheds light on the therapeutic mechanism of thalamic stimulation and highlights capabilities needed in next-generation devices.

Keywords: Biomarkers of treatment; Chronic electrocorticography; Deep brain stimulation; Epilepsy; Functional connectivity; Hippocampus.