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Exp Brain Res. 2006 Apr;170(2):160-71. Epub 2005 Nov 23.

The impact of ventrolateral thalamotomy on tremor and voluntary motor behavior in patients with Parkinson's disease.

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Faculty of Applied Health Science, Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.


A preferred target for parkinsonian tremor alleviation is the ventrolateral (VL) thalamus. The goal of the present study is to determine how lesions involving the presumed cerebellar and pallidal recipient areas of the "motor" thalamus would alter the tremor and motor behavior of ten patients with Parkinson's disease (PD). Tremor amplitude, power dispersion (a measure of sharpness of the power spectrum of tremor), and power distribution were quantified using a laser displacement sensor prior to, and a week after, VL thalamotomy. As well, the impact of surgery on tremor seen during movement was quantified in a manual-tracking (MT) task. Tremor-induced noise (a measure of the amount of tremor present during movement) and ERROR (difference between subject's performance and target) were quantified. Finally, bradykinesia was assessed with a rapid alternating movement (RAM) task. Duration, range, and amplitude irregularity of wrist pronation-supination cycles were computed. Both motor tasks were quantified using a highly sensitive forearm rotational sensor. Healthy age-matched control subjects were also tested. Magnetic resonance images with an integrated atlas of thalamic nuclei were used to confirm lesion location. Results show that the lesions were centered upon the posterior portion of the ventral lateral (VLp) nucleus of the thalamus, included the posterior part of the ventral lateral anterior nucleus (VLa), and extended posteriorly to encroach upon the most rostral sector of the sensory ventral posterior nucleus (VPLa). VL thalamotomy significantly decreased tremor amplitude in all cases. Power dispersion was increased significantly so that it became similar to that of control subjects. Changes in power distribution indicate that thalamotomy selectively targeted PD tremor oscillations. Tremor detected during the MT task was also markedly decreased, becoming similar to that of controls. Patients also showed significant decrease in ERROR during MT. RAM duration and range were not significantly modified by the surgery, and patients' performance remained impaired compared to healthy control subjects. Collectively, these results suggest that lesions involving the presumed "cerebellar" and "pallidal" recipient sectors of the motor thalamus do not worsen bradykinesia, suggesting that neural circuits other than the pallido-thalamo-cortical loop may be involved in slowness of movement in PD. A review of alternate pathways is presented.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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