Chronic electrical stimulation of the left ventrointermediate (Vim) thalamic nucleus for the treatment of pharmacotherapy-resistant Parkinson's disease: a differential impact on access to semantic and episodic memory?

Brain Cogn. 1998 Nov;38(2):125-49. doi: 10.1006/brcg.1998.1025.


Thalamotomy for medically refractory Parkinson's disease (PD) is considered to be efficacious and relatively safe. Because a minority of patients experience decrements in language and memory (often mild and transient) after thalamotomy, chronic thalamic deep brain stimulation (DBS) might be a safer treatment given its reversibility and the modifiability of stimulation parameters. Two preliminary studies support the relative cognitive safety of unilateral DBS of the ventral intermediate (Vim) thalamic nucleus, but it is unclear whether possibly subtle changes in language and memory represent effects of "microthalamotomy" or of stimulation per se. This report provides preliminary data concerning effects of left thalamic stimulation on information processing speed, semantic memory (verbal fluency and visual confrontation naming), and verbal episodic memory in a patient with PD. In addition to being evaluated before and 3 and 6 months after surgery, the patient was tested 18 months after surgery either on or off medications and with the stimulator turned either on or off (order counterbalanced across medication conditions). Test performance differences between the stimulation conditions were attenuated "off" as compared to "on" medication. Vim stimulation consistently, albeit subtly, improved semantic verbal fluency but interfered with immediate recall of word lists. Parallels to findings from acute, intraoperative thalamic stimulation studies are explored. The hypothesis is offered that left Vim stimulation might facilitate access to semantic memory, but interfere with episodic memory processes.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cerebral Ventricles / surgery*
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / therapy*
  • Parkinson Disease / therapy*
  • Semantics*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / diagnostic imaging
  • Thalamic Nuclei / surgery*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Treatment Outcome