Activity parameters of subthalamic nucleus neurons selectively predict motor symptom severity in Parkinson's disease

Andrew Sharott*, Alessandro Gulberti, Simone Zittel, Adam A. Tudor Jones, Ulrich Fickel, Alexander Münchau, Johannes A. Köppen, Christian Gerloff, Manfred Westphal, Carsten Buhmann, Wolfgang Hamel, Andreas K. Engel, Christian K.E. Moll

*Corresponding author for this work
36 Citations (Scopus)


Parkinson's disease (PD) is a heterogeneous disorder that leads to variable expression of several different motor symptoms. While changes in firing rate, pattern, and oscillation of basal ganglia neurons have been observed in PD patients and experimental animals, there is limited evidence linking them to specific motor symptoms. Here we examined this relationship using extracellular recordings of subthalamic nucleus neurons from 19 PD patients undergoing surgery for deep brain stimulation. For each patient, ≥10 single units and/or multi-units were recorded in the OFF medication state. We correlated the proportion of neurons displaying different activities with preoperative Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale subscores (OFF medication). The mean spectral power at sub-beta frequencies and percentage of units oscillating at beta frequencies were positively correlated with the axial and limb rigidity scores, respectively. The percentage of units oscillating at gamma frequency was negatively correlated with the bradykinesia scores. The mean intraburst rate was positively correlated with both bradykinesia and axial scores, while the related ratio of interspike intervals below/above 10 ms was positively correlated with these symptoms and limb rigidity. None of the activity parameters correlated with tremor. The grand average of all the significantly correlated subthalamic nucleus activities accounted for >60% of the variance of the combined bradykinetic-rigid and axial scores. Our results demonstrate that the occurrence of alterations in the rate and pattern of basal ganglia neurons could partly underlie the variability in parkinsonian phenotype.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number18
Pages (from-to)6273-6285
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 01.01.2014


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