Personalizing Deep Brain Stimulation Using Advanced Imaging Sequences

Ann Neurol. 2022 May;91(5):613-628. doi: 10.1002/ana.26326. Epub 2022 Mar 7.


Objective: With a growing appreciation for interindividual anatomical variability and patient-specific brain connectivity, advanced imaging sequences offer the opportunity to directly visualize anatomical targets for deep brain stimulation (DBS). The lack of quantitative evidence demonstrating their clinical utility, however, has hindered their broad implementation in clinical practice.

Methods: Using fast gray matter acquisition T1 inversion recovery (FGATIR) sequences, the present study identified a thalamic hypointensity that holds promise as a visual marker in DBS. To validate the clinical utility of the identified hypointensity, we retrospectively analyzed 65 patients (26 female, mean age = 69.1 ± 12.7 years) who underwent DBS in the treatment of essential tremor. We characterized its neuroanatomical substrates and evaluated the hypointensity's ability to predict clinical outcome using stimulation volume modeling and voxelwise mapping. Finally, we determined whether the hypointensity marker could predict symptom improvement on a patient-specific level.

Results: Anatomical characterization suggested that the identified hypointensity constituted the terminal part of the dentatorubrothalamic tract. Overlap between DBS stimulation volumes and the hypointensity in standard space significantly correlated with tremor improvement (R2 = 0.16, p = 0.017) and distance to hotspots previously reported in the literature (R2 = 0.49, p = 7.9e-4). In contrast, the amount of variance explained by other anatomical atlas structures was reduced. When accounting for interindividual neuroanatomical variability, the predictive power of the hypointensity increased further (R2 = 0.37, p = 0.002).

Interpretation: Our findings introduce and validate a novel imaging-based marker attainable from FGATIR sequences that has the potential to personalize and inform targeting and programming in DBS for essential tremor. ANN NEUROL 2022;91:613-628.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Deep Brain Stimulation* / methods
  • Diffusion Tensor Imaging / methods
  • Essential Tremor* / diagnostic imaging
  • Essential Tremor* / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thalamus / diagnostic imaging