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1.  The nature of tremor circuits in parkinsonian and essential tremor 
Brain  2014;137(12):3223-3234.
See Arkadir et al. (doi:10.1093/brain/awu285) for a scientific commentary on this article. The mechanisms underlying tremor generation remain unclear. Cagnan et al. use deep brain stimulation of the thalamus or subthalamic nucleus at/near a patient's own tremor frequency to investigate the networks responsible for parkinsonian and essential tremor. The results reveal differences in the circuitry underlying these two tremor types.
Tremor is a cardinal feature of Parkinson’s disease and essential tremor, the two most common movement disorders. Yet, the mechanisms underlying tremor generation remain largely unknown. We hypothesized that driving deep brain stimulation electrodes at a frequency closely matching the patient’s own tremor frequency should interact with neural activity responsible for tremor, and that the effect of stimulation on tremor should reveal the role of different deep brain stimulation targets in tremor generation. Moreover, tremor responses to stimulation might reveal pathophysiological differences between parkinsonian and essential tremor circuits. Accordingly, we stimulated 15 patients with Parkinson’s disease with either thalamic or subthalamic electrodes (13 male and two female patients, age: 50–77 years) and 10 patients with essential tremor with thalamic electrodes (nine male and one female patients, age: 34–74 years). Stimulation at near-to tremor frequency entrained tremor in all three patient groups (ventrolateral thalamic stimulation in Parkinson’s disease, P = 0.0078, subthalamic stimulation in Parkinson’s disease, P = 0.0312; ventrolateral thalamic stimulation in essential tremor, P = 0.0137; two-tailed paired Wilcoxon signed-rank tests). However, only ventrolateral thalamic stimulation in essential tremor modulated postural tremor amplitude according to the timing of stimulation pulses with respect to the tremor cycle (e.g. P = 0.0002 for tremor amplification, two-tailed Wilcoxon rank sum test). Parkinsonian rest and essential postural tremor severity (i.e. tremor amplitude) differed in their relative tolerance to spontaneous changes in tremor frequency when stimulation was not applied. Specifically, the amplitude of parkinsonian rest tremor remained unchanged despite spontaneous changes in tremor frequency, whereas that of essential postural tremor reduced when tremor frequency departed from median values. Based on these results we conclude that parkinsonian rest tremor is driven by a neural network, which includes the subthalamic nucleus and ventrolateral thalamus and has broad frequency-amplitude tolerance. We propose that it is this tolerance to changes in tremor frequency that dictates that parkinsonian rest tremor may be significantly entrained by low frequency stimulation without stimulation timing-dependent amplitude modulation. In contrast, the circuit influenced by low frequency thalamic stimulation in essential tremor has a narrower frequency-amplitude tolerance so that tremor entrainment through extrinsic driving is necessarily accompanied by amplitude modulation. Such differences in parkinsonian rest and essential tremor will be important in selecting future strategies for closed loop deep brain stimulation for tremor control.
doi:10.1093/brain/awu250
PMCID: PMC4240284  PMID: 25200741
basal ganglia; deep brain stimulation; tremor; clinical neurophysiology; thalamus
2.  Phase dependent modulation of tremor amplitude in essential tremor through thalamic stimulation 
Brain  2013;136(10):3062-3075.
High frequency deep brain stimulation of the thalamus can help ameliorate severe essential tremor. Here we explore how the efficacy, efficiency and selectivity of thalamic deep brain stimulation might be improved in this condition. We started from the hypothesis that the effects of electrical stimulation on essential tremor may be phase dependent, and that, in particular, there are tremor phases at which stimuli preferentially lead to a reduction in the amplitude of tremor. The latter could be exploited to improve deep brain stimulation, particularly if tremor suppression could be reinforced by cumulative effects. Accordingly, we stimulated 10 patients with essential tremor and thalamic electrodes, while recording tremor amplitude and phase. Stimulation near the postural tremor frequency entrained tremor. Tremor amplitude was also modulated depending on the phase at which stimulation pulses were delivered in the tremor cycle. Stimuli in one half of the tremor cycle reduced median tremor amplitude by ∼10%, while those in the opposite half of the tremor cycle increased tremor amplitude by a similar amount. At optimal phase alignment tremor suppression reached 27%. Moreover, tremor amplitude showed a non-linear increase in the degree of suppression with successive stimuli; tremor suppression was increased threefold if a stimulus was preceded by four stimuli with a similar phase relationship with respect to the tremor, suggesting cumulative, possibly plastic, effects. The present results pave the way for a stimulation system that tracks tremor phase to control when deep brain stimulation pulses are delivered to treat essential tremor. This would allow treatment effects to be maximized by focussing stimulation on the optimal phase for suppression and by ensuring that this is repeated over many cycles so as to harness cumulative effects. Such a system might potentially achieve tremor control with far less power demand and greater specificity than current high frequency stimulation approaches, and may lower the risk for tolerance and rebound.
doi:10.1093/brain/awt239
PMCID: PMC3784287  PMID: 24038075
essential tremor; deep brain stimulation; thalamus; entrainment, plasticity
3.  Subthalamic nucleus activity optimizes maximal effort motor responses in Parkinson’s disease 
Brain  2012;135(9):2766-2778.
The neural substrates that enable individuals to achieve their fastest and strongest motor responses have long been enigmatic. Importantly, characterization of such activities may inform novel therapeutic strategies for patients with hypokinetic disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease. Here, we ask whether the basal ganglia may play an important role, not only in the attainment of maximal motor responses under standard conditions but also in the setting of the performance enhancements known to be engendered by delivery of intense stimuli. To this end, we recorded local field potentials from deep brain stimulation electrodes implanted bilaterally in the subthalamic nuclei of 10 patients with Parkinson’s disease, as they executed their fastest and strongest handgrips in response to a visual cue, which was accompanied by a brief 96-dB auditory tone on random trials. We identified a striking correlation between both theta/alpha (5–12 Hz) and high-gamma/high-frequency (55–375 Hz) subthalamic nucleus activity and force measures, which explained close to 70% of interindividual variance in maximal motor responses to the visual cue alone, when patients were ON their usual dopaminergic medication. Loud auditory stimuli were found to enhance reaction time and peak rate of development of force still further, independent of whether patients were ON or OFF l-DOPA, and were associated with increases in subthalamic nucleus power over a broad gamma range. However, the contribution of this broad gamma activity to the performance enhancements observed was only modest (≤13%). The results implicate frequency-specific subthalamic nucleus activities as substantial factors in optimizing an individual’s peak motor responses at maximal effort of will, but much less so in the performance increments engendered by intense auditory stimuli.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws183
PMCID: PMC3437023  PMID: 22858550
subthalamic nucleus; local field potentials; peak force; paradoxical kinesia; motor vigor
4.  Hypokinesia without decrement distinguishes progressive supranuclear palsy from Parkinson's disease 
Brain  2012;135(4):1141-1153.
Repetitive finger tapping is commonly used to assess bradykinesia in Parkinson's disease. The Queen Square Brain Bank diagnostic criterion of Parkinson's disease defines bradykinesia as ‘slowness of initiation with progressive reduction in speed and amplitude of repetitive action’. Although progressive supranuclear palsy is considered an atypical parkinsonian syndrome, it is not known whether patients with progressive supranuclear palsy have criteria-defined bradykinesia. This study objectively assessed repetitive finger tap performance and handwriting in patients with Parkinson's disease (n = 15), progressive supranuclear palsy (n = 9) and healthy age- and gender-matched controls (n = 16). The motion of the hand and digits was recorded in 3D during 15-s repetitive index finger-to-thumb tapping trials. The main finding was hypokinesia without decrement in patients with progressive supranuclear palsy, which differed from the finger tap pattern in Parkinson's disease. Average finger separation amplitude in progressive supranuclear palsy was less than half of that in controls and Parkinson's disease (P < 0.001 in both cases). Change in tap amplitude over consecutive taps was computed by linear regression. The average amplitude slope in progressive supranuclear palsy was nearly zero (0.01°/cycle) indicating a lack of decrement, which differed from the negative slope in patients with Parkinson's disease OFF levodopa (−0.20°/cycle, P = 0.002). ‘Hypokinesia’, defined as <50% of control group's mean amplitude, combined with ‘absence of decrement’, defined as mean positive amplitude slope, were identified in 87% of finger tap trials in the progressive supranuclear palsy group and only 12% in the Parkinson's disease OFF levodopa group. In progressive supranuclear palsy, the mean amplitude was not correlated with disease duration or other clinimetric scores. In Parkinson's disease, finger tap pattern was compatible with criteria-defined bradykinesia, characterized by slowness with progressive reduction in amplitude and speed and increased variability in speed throughout the tap trial. In Parkinson's disease, smaller amplitude, slower speed and greater speed variability were all associated with a more severe Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale motor score. Analyses of handwriting showed that micrographia, defined as smaller than 50% of the control group's mean script size, was present in 75% of patients with progressive supranuclear palsy and 15% of patients with Parkinson's disease (P = 0.022). Most scripts performed by patients with progressive supranuclear palsy did not exhibit decrements in script size. In conclusion, patients with progressive supranuclear palsy have a specific finger tap pattern of ‘hypokinesia without decrement’ and they do not have criteria-defined limb bradykinesia. Similarly, ‘micrographia’ and ‘lack of decrement in script size’ are also more common in progressive supranuclear palsy than in Parkinson's disease.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws038
PMCID: PMC3326257  PMID: 22396397
hypokinesia; bradykinesia; repetitive finger tap; micrographia; progressive supranuclear palsy
5.  A spatiotemporal analysis of gait freezing and the impact of pedunculopontine nucleus stimulation 
Brain  2012;135(5):1446-1454.
Gait freezing is an episodic arrest of locomotion due to an inability to take normal steps. Pedunculopontine nucleus stimulation is an emerging therapy proposed to improve gait freezing, even where refractory to medication. However, the efficacy and precise effects of pedunculopontine nucleus stimulation on Parkinsonian gait disturbance are not established. The clinical application of this new therapy is controversial and it is unknown if bilateral stimulation is more effective than unilateral. Here, in a double-blinded study using objective spatiotemporal gait analysis, we assessed the impact of unilateral and bilateral pedunculopontine nucleus stimulation on triggered episodes of gait freezing and on background deficits of unconstrained gait in Parkinson’s disease. Under experimental conditions, while OFF medication, Parkinsonian patients with severe gait freezing implanted with pedunculopontine nucleus stimulators below the pontomesencephalic junction were assessed during three conditions; off stimulation, unilateral stimulation and bilateral stimulation. Results were compared to Parkinsonian patients without gait freezing matched for disease severity and healthy controls. Pedunculopontine nucleus stimulation improved objective measures of gait freezing, with bilateral stimulation more effective than unilateral. During unconstrained walking, Parkinsonian patients who experience gait freezing had reduced step length and increased step length variability compared to patients without gait freezing; however, these deficits were unchanged by pedunculopontine nucleus stimulation. Chronic pedunculopontine nucleus stimulation improved Freezing of Gait Questionnaire scores, reflecting a reduction of the freezing encountered in patients’ usual environments and medication states. This study provides objective, double-blinded evidence that in a specific subgroup of Parkinsonian patients, stimulation of a caudal pedunculopontine nucleus region selectively improves gait freezing but not background deficits in step length. Bilateral stimulation was more effective than unilateral.
doi:10.1093/brain/aws039
PMCID: PMC3338924  PMID: 22396391
Parkinson’s disease; gait freezing; deep brain stimulation; pedunculopontine nucleus
6.  Alpha oscillations in the pedunculopontine nucleus correlate with gait performance in parkinsonism 
Brain  2012;135(1):148-160.
The pedunculopontine nucleus, a component of the reticular formation, is topographically organized in animal models and implicated in locomotor control. In Parkinson's disease, pedunculopontine nucleus stimulation is an emerging treatment for gait freezing. Local field potentials recorded from pedunculopontine nucleus electrodes in such patients have demonstrated oscillations in the alpha and beta frequency bands, reactive to self-paced movement. Whether these oscillations are topographically organized or relevant to locomotion is unknown. Here, we recorded local field potentials from the pedunculopontine nucleus in parkinsonian patients during rest and unconstrained walking. Relative gait speed was assessed with trunk accelerometry. Peaks of alpha power were present at rest and during gait, when they correlated with gait speed. Gait freezing was associated with attenuation of alpha activity. Beta peaks were less consistently observed across rest and gait, and did not correlate with gait speed. Alpha power was maximal in the caudal pedunculopontine nucleus region and beta power was maximal rostrally. These results indicate a topographic distribution of neuronal activity in the pedunculopontine nucleus region and concur with animal data suggesting that the caudal subregion has particular relevance to gait. Alpha synchronization, proposed to suppress ‘task irrelevant’ distraction, has previously been demonstrated to correlate with performance of cognitive tasks. Here, we demonstrate a correlation between alpha oscillations and improved gait performance. The results raise the possibility that stimulation of caudal and rostral pedunculopontine nucleus regions may differ in their clinical effects.
doi:10.1093/brain/awr315
PMCID: PMC3267984  PMID: 22232591
Parkinson's disease; gait freezing; pedunculopontine nucleus; deep brain stimulation; neuronal oscillations
7.  A block to pre-prepared movement in gait freezing, relieved by pedunculopontine nucleus stimulation 
Brain  2011;134(7):2085-2095.
Gait freezing and postural instability are disabling features of Parkinsonian disorders, treatable with pedunculopontine nucleus stimulation. Both features are considered deficits of proximal and axial musculature, innervated predominantly by reticulospinal pathways and tend to manifest when gait and posture require adjustment. Adjustments to gait and posture are amenable to pre-preparation and rapid triggered release. Experimentally, such accelerated release can be elicited by loud auditory stimuli—a phenomenon known as ‘StartReact’. We observed StartReact in healthy and Parkinsonian controls. However, StartReact was absent in Parkinsonian patients with severe gait freezing and postural instability. Pedunculopontine nucleus stimulation restored StartReact proximally and proximal reaction times to loud stimuli correlated with gait and postural disturbance. These findings suggest a relative block to triggered, pre-prepared movement in gait freezing and postural instability, relieved by pedunculopontine nucleus stimulation.
doi:10.1093/brain/awr131
PMCID: PMC3122373  PMID: 21705424
deep brain stimulation; gait freezing; Parkinson’s disease; pedunculopontine nucleus; StartReact
8.  Resonance in subthalamo-cortical circuits in Parkinson's disease 
Brain  2009;132(8):2139-2150.
Neuronal activity within and across the cortex and basal ganglia is pathologically synchronized, particularly at ∼ 20 Hz in patients with Parkinson's disease. Defining how activities in spatially distributed brain regions overtly synchronize in narrow frequency bands is critical for understanding disease processes like Parkinson's disease. To address this, we studied cortical responses to electrical stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) at various frequencies between 5 and 30 Hz in two cohorts of eight patients with Parkinson's disease from two different surgical centres. We found that evoked activity consisted of a series of diminishing waves with a peak latency of 21 ms for the first wave in the series. The cortical evoked potentials (cEPs) averaged in each group were well fitted by a damped oscillator function (r ≥0.9, P < 0.00001). Fits suggested that the natural frequency of the subthalamo-cortical circuit was around 20 Hz. When the system was forced at this frequency by stimulation of the STN at 20 Hz, the undamped amplitude of the modelled cortical response increased relative to that with 5 Hz stimulation in both groups (P ≤ 0.005), consistent with resonance. Restoration of dopaminergic input by treatment with levodopa increased the damping of oscillatory activity (as measured by the modelled damping factor) in both patient groups (P ≤0.001). The increased damping would tend to limit resonance, as confirmed in simulations. Our results show that the basal ganglia–cortical network involving the STN has a tendency to resonate at ∼ 20 Hz in Parkinsonian patients. This resonance phenomenon may underlie the propagation and amplification of activities synchronized around this frequency. Crucially, dopamine acts to increase damping and thereby limit resonance in this basal ganglia–cortical network.
doi:10.1093/brain/awp079
PMCID: PMC2714058  PMID: 19369488
synchronization; basal ganglia; resonance; Parkinson's disease; deep brain stimulation

Results 1-8 (8)