Modulation of Neuronal Activity in the Motor Thalamus during GPi-DBS in the MPTP Nonhuman Primate Model of Parkinson's Disease

Abirami Muralidharan, Jianyu Zhang, Debabrata Ghosh, Mathew D. Johnson, Kenneth B. Baker, Jerrold L. Vitek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Background The motor thalamus is a key nodal point in the pallidothalamocortical “motor” circuit, which has been implicated in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease (PD) and other movement disorders. Although a critical structure in the motor circuit, the role of the motor thalamus in mediating the therapeutic effects of deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the internal segment of the globus pallidus (GPi) is not fully understood. Objective To characterize the changes in neuronal activity in the pallidal (ventralis lateralis pars oralis (VLo) and ventralis anterior (VA)) and cerebellar (ventralis posterior lateralis pars oralis (VPLo)) receiving areas of the motor thalamus during therapeutic GPi DBS. Methods Neuronal activity from the VA/VLo (n = 134) and VPLo (n = 129) was recorded from two non-human primates made parkinsonian using the neurotoxin 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine. For each isolated unit, one minute of data was recorded before, during and after DBS; a pulse width of 90 µs and a frequency of 135 Hz were used for DBS to replicate commonly used clinical settings. Stimulation amplitude was determined based on the parameters required to improve motor signs. Severity of motor signs was assessed using the UPDRS modified for nonhuman primates. Discharge rate, presence and characteristics of bursts, and oscillatory activity were computed and compared across conditions (pre-, during, and post-stimulation). Results Neurons in both the pallidal and cerebellar receiving areas demonstrated significant changes in their pattern of activity during therapeutic GPi DBS. A majority of the neurons in each nucleus were inhibited during DBS (VA/VLo: 47% and VPLo: 49%), while a smaller subset was excited (VA/VLo: 21% and VPLo: 17%). Bursts changed in structure, becoming longer in duration and both intra-burst and inter-spike intervals and variability were increased in both subnuclei. High frequency oscillatory activity was significantly increased during stimulation with 33% of VA/VLo (likelihood ratio: p < 0.0001) and 34% of VPLo (p < 0.0001) neurons entrained to the stimulation pulse train. Conclusions Therapeutic GPi DBS produced a significant change in neuronal activity in both pallidal and cerebellar receiving areas of the motor thalamus. DBS suppressed activity in the majority of neurons, changed the structure of bursting activity and locked the neuronal response of one-third of cells to the stimulation pulse, leading to an increase in the power of gamma oscillations. These data support the hypothesis that stimulation activates output from the stimulated structure and that GPi DBS produces network-wide changes in neuronal activity that includes both the pallidal and cerebellar thalamo-cortical circuits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)126-138
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Stimulation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was supported by NIH R01 NS-037019 and a postdoctoral fellowship for basic scientists awarded to the author by Parkinson's Disease Foundation PDF-FBS-1105. We would like to thank Medtronic for providing us with the pulse generator (Itrel II) used in this study. We would like to thank Dr. Claudia Hendrix for helping with statistical analysis of data.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Inc.


  • DBS
  • GPi
  • Motor thalamus
  • Non-human primate
  • Parkinson's disease


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