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J Neurophysiol. 2012 Jul;108(1):5-17. doi: 10.1152/jn.00527.2011. Epub 2012 Mar 28.

Frequency-dependent effects of electrical stimulation in the globus pallidus of dystonia patients.

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Department of Physiology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the globus pallidus internus (GPi) has been shown to improve dystonia, a movement disorder of repetitive twisting movements and postures. DBS at frequencies above 60 Hz improves dystonia, but the mechanisms underlying this frequency dependence are unclear. In patients undergoing dual-microelectrode mapping of the GPi, microstimulation has been shown to reduce neuronal firing, presumably due to synaptic GABA release. This study examined the effects of different microstimulation frequencies (1-100 Hz) and train length (0.5-20 s), with and without prior high-frequency stimulation (HFS) on neuronal firing and evoked field potentials (fEPs) in 13 dystonia patients. Pre-HFS, the average firing decreased as stimulation frequency increased and was silenced above 50 Hz. The average fEP amplitudes increased up to frequencies of 20-30 Hz but then declined and at 50 Hz, were only at 75% of baseline. In some cases, short latency fiber volleys and antidromic-like spikes were observed and followed high frequencies. Post-HFS, overall firing was reduced compared with pre-HFS, and the fEP amplitudes were enhanced at low frequencies, providing evidence of inhibitory synaptic plasticity in the GPi. In a patient with DBS electrodes already implanted in the GPi, recordings from four neurons in the subthalamic nucleus showed almost complete inhibition of firing with clinically effective but not clinically ineffective stimulation parameters. These data provide additional support for the hypothesis of stimulation-evoked GABA release from afferent synaptic terminals and reduction of neuronal firing during DBS and additionally, implicate excitation of GPi axon fibers and neurons and enhancement of inhibitory synaptic transmission by high-frequency GPi DBS as additional putative mechanisms underlying the clinical benefits of DBS in dystonia.

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