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Front Hum Neurosci. 2011 Apr 4;5:30. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2011.00030. eCollection 2011.

Deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus improves reward-based decision-learning in Parkinson's disease.

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Leiden University Institute of Psychology Leiden, Netherlands.


Recently, the subthalamic nucleus (STN) has been shown to be critically involved in decision-making, action selection, and motor control. Here we investigate the effect of deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the STN on reward-based decision-learning in patients diagnosed with Parkinson's disease (PD). We determined computational measures of outcome evaluation and reward prediction from PD patients who performed a probabilistic reward-based decision-learning task. In previous work, these measures covaried with activation in the nucleus caudatus (outcome evaluation during the early phases of learning) and the putamen (reward prediction during later phases of learning). We observed that stimulation of the STN motor regions in PD patients served to improve reward-based decision-learning, probably through its effect on activity in frontostriatal motor loops (prominently involving the putamen and, hence, reward prediction). In a subset of relatively younger patients with relatively shorter disease duration, the effects of DBS appeared to spread to more cognitive regions of the STN, benefiting loops that connect the caudate to various prefrontal areas importantfor outcome evaluation. These results highlight positive effects of STN stimulation on cognitive functions that may benefit PD patients in daily-life association-learning situations.


Parkinson's disease; deep brain stimulation; probabilistic learning; subthalamic nucleus

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