Microelectrode recording revealing a somatotopic body map in the subthalamic nucleus in humans with Parkinson disease JOURNAL OF NEUROSURGERY Romanelli, P., Heit, G., Hill, B. C., Kraus, A., Hastie, T., Bronte-Stewart, H. M. 2004; 100 (4): 611-618


The subthalamic nucleus (STN) is a key structure for motor control through the basal ganglia. The aim of this study was to show that the STN in patients with Parkinson disease (PD) has a somatotopic organization similar to that in nonhuman primates.A functional map of the STN was obtained using electrophysiological microrecording during placement of deep brain stimulation (DBS) electrodes in patients with PD. Magnetic resonance imaging was combined with ventriculography and intraoperative x-ray film to assess the position of the electrodes and the STN units, which were activated by limb movements to map the sensorimotor region of the STN. Each activated cell was located relative to the anterior commissure-posterior commissure line. Three-dimensional coordinates of the cells were analyzed statistically to determine whether those cells activated by movements of the arm and leg were segregated spatially. Three hundred seventy-nine microelectrode tracks were created during placement of 71 DBS electrodes in 44 consecutive patients. Somatosensory driving was found in 288 tracks. The authors identified and localized 1213 movement-related cells and recorded responses from 29 orofacial cells, 480 arm-related cells, 558 leg-related cells, and 146 cells responsive to both arm and leg movements. Leg-related cells were localized in medial (p < 0.0001) and ventral (p < 0.0004) positions and tended to be situated anteriorly (p = 0.063) relative to arm-related cells.Evidence of somatotopic organization in the STN in patients with PD supports the current theory of highly segregated loops integrating cortex-basal ganglia connections. These loops are preserved in chronic degenerative diseases such as PD, but may subserve a distorted body map. This finding also supports the relevance of microelectrode mapping in the optimal placement of DBS electrodes along the subthalamic homunculus.

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