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Brain. 2018 Sep 1;141(9):2655-2669. doi: 10.1093/brain/awy206.

Functional segregation of basal ganglia pathways in Parkinson's disease.

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Movement Disorder and Neuromodulation Unit, Department of Neurology, Charité Campus Mitte, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Department of Biological Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany.
Berlin School of Mind and Brain, Humboldt-Universitaet zu Berlin, Germany.
Department of Neurosurgery, Charité Campus Mitte, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Department of Computer Science, Chemnitz University of Technology, Chemnitz, Germany.
Neurocure, Centre of Excellence, Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
DZNE, German Center for Degenerative Diseases, Berlin, Germany.


Dopamine exerts modulatory signals on cortex-basal ganglia circuits to enable flexible motor control. Parkinson's disease is characterized by a loss of dopaminergic innervation in the basal ganglia leading to complex motor and non-motor symptoms. Clinical symptom alleviation through dopaminergic medication and deep brain stimulation in the subthalamic nucleus likely depends on a complex interplay between converging basal ganglia pathways. As a unique translational research platform, deep brain stimulation allows instantaneous investigation of functional effects of subthalamic neuromodulation in human patients with Parkinson's disease. The present study aims at disentangling the role of the inhibitory basal ganglia pathways in cognitive and kinematic aspects of automatic and controlled movements in healthy and parkinsonian states by combining behavioural experiments, clinical observations, whole-brain deep brain stimulation fibre connectivity mapping and computational modelling. Twenty patients with Parkinson's disease undergoing subthalamic deep brain stimulation and 20 age-matched healthy controls participated in a visuomotor tracking task requiring normal (automatic) and inverted (controlled) reach movements. Parkinsonian patients on and off deep brain stimulation presented complex patterns of reaction time and kinematic changes, when compared to healthy controls. Stimulation of cortico-subthalamic fibres was correlated with reduced reaction time adaptation to task demand, but not kinematic aspects of motor control or alleviation of Parkinson's disease motor signs. By using clinically, behaviourally and fibre tracking informed computational models, our study reveals that loss of cognitive adaptation can be attributed to modulation of the hyperdirect pathway, while kinematic depends on suppression of indirect pathway activity. Our findings suggest that hyperdirect and indirect pathways, converging in the subthalamic nucleus, are differentially involved in cognitive aspects of cautious motor preparation and kinematic gain control during motor performance. Subthalamic deep brain stimulation modulates but does not restore these functions. Intelligent stimulation algorithms could re-enable flexible motor control in Parkinson's disease when adapted to instantaneous environmental demand. Our results may inspire new innovative pathway-specific approaches to reduce side effects and increase therapeutic efficacy of neuromodulation in patients with Parkinson's disease.


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