Circuits and Circuit Disorders
November 2015

Basal Ganglia Circuits as Targets for Neuromodulation in Parkinson Disease

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia
  • 2Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia

Copyright 2015 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA Neurol. 2015;72(11):1354-1360. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2015.2397

Importance  The revival of stereotactic surgery for Parkinson disease (PD) in the 1990s, with pallidotomy and then with high-frequency deep brain stimulation (DBS), has led to a renaissance in functional surgery for movement and other neuropsychiatric disorders.

Objective  To examine the scientific foundations and rationale for the use of ablation and DBS for treatment of neurologic and psychiatric diseases, using PD as the primary example.

Evidence Review  A summary of the large body of relevant literature is presented on anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, and functional surgery for PD and other basal ganglia disorders.

Findings  The signs and symptoms of movement disorders appear to result largely from signature abnormalities in one of several parallel and largely segregated basal ganglia thalamocortical circuits (ie, the motor circuit). The available evidence suggests that the varied movement disorders resulting from dysfunction of this circuit result from propagated disruption of downstream network activity in the thalamus, cortex, and brainstem. Ablation and DBS act to free downstream networks to function more normally. The basal ganglia thalamocortical circuit may play a key role in the expression of disordered movement, and the basal ganglia–brainstem projections may play roles in akinesia and disturbances of gait. Efforts are under way to target circuit dysfunction in brain areas outside of the traditionally implicated basal ganglia thalamocortical system, in particular, the pedunculopontine nucleus, to address gait disorders that respond poorly to levodopa and conventional DBS targets.

Conclusions and Relevance  Deep brain stimulation is now the treatment of choice for many patients with advanced PD and other movement disorders. The success of DBS and other forms of neuromodulation for neuropsychiatric disorders is the result of the ability to modulate circuit activity in discrete functional domains within the basal ganglia circuitry with highly focused interventions, which spare uninvolved areas that are often disrupted with drugs.