Open Access Research

Subthalamic deep brain stimulation improves smooth pursuit and saccade performance in patients with Parkinson’s disease

Maria H Nilsson12, Mitesh Patel34, Stig Rehncrona2, Måns Magnusson3 and Per-Anders Fransson3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Health Sciences, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

2 Department of Neurosurgery, Clinical Sciences Lund, Skåne University Hospital, Lund, Sweden

3 Department of Clinical Sciences, Lund University, Lund S-221 85, Sweden

4 Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Neuro-Otology Department, Imperial College London, London, UK

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Journal of NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation 2013, 10:33  doi:10.1186/1743-0003-10-33

Published: 3 April 2013

Abstract

Background

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) significantly reduces symptoms of Parkinson’s disease (PD) such as bradykinesia, tremor and rigidity. It also reduces the need for anti-PD medication, and thereby potential side-effects of L-Dopa. Although DBS in the STN is a highly effective therapeutic intervention in PD, its mechanism and effects on oculomotor eye movement control and particularly smooth pursuit eye movements have to date rarely been investigated. Furthermore, previous reports provide conflicting information. The aim was to investigate how DBS in STN affected oculomotor performance in persons with PD using novel analysis techniques.

Methods

Twenty-five patients were eligible (22 males, 3 females) according to the clinical inclusion criteria: idiopathic PD responsive to L-Dopa and having had bilateral STN stimulation for at least one year to ensure stable DBS treatment. Fifteen patients were excluded due to the strict inclusion criteria applied to avoid interacting and confounding factors when determining the effects of DBS applied alone without PD medication. One patient declined participation. Nine PD patients (median age 63, range 59–69 years) were assessed after having their PD medications withdrawn overnight. They were examined with DBS ON and OFF, with the ON/OFF order individually randomized.

Results

DBS ON increased smooth pursuit velocity accuracy (p < 0.001) and smooth pursuit gain (p = 0.005), especially for faster smooth pursuits (p = 0.034). DBS ON generally increased saccade amplitude accuracy (p = 0.007) and tended to increase peak saccade velocity also (p = 0.087), specifically both saccade velocity and amplitude accuracy for the 20 and 40 degree saccades (p < 0.05). Smooth pursuit latency tended to be longer (p = 0.090) approaching normal with DBS ON. Saccade latency was unaffected.

Conclusions

STN stimulation from DBS alone significantly improved both smooth pursuit and saccade performance in patients with PD. The STN stimulation enhancement found for oculomotor performance suggests clear positive implications for patients’ ability to perform tasks that rely on visual motor control and visual feedback. The new oculomotor analysis methods provide a sensitive vehicle to detect subtle pathological modifications from PD and the functional enhancements produced by STN stimulation from DBS alone.

Keywords:
Parkinson’s disease; Deep brain stimulation; Subthalamic nucleus; Oculomotor functions