Neurophysiology of Deep Brain Stimulation

Manuela Rosa, Gaia Giannicola, Sara Marceglia, Manuela Fumagalli, Sergio Barbieri, Alberto Priori

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We review the data concerning the neurophysiology of deep brain stimulation (DBS) in humans, especially in reference to Parkinson's disease. The electric field generated by DBS interacts with the brain in complex ways, and several variables could influence the DBS-induced biophysical and clinical effects. The neurophysiology of DBS comprises the DBS-induced effects per se as well as neurophysiological studies designed to record electrical activity directly from the basal ganglia (single-unit or local field potential) through the electrodes implanted for DBS. In the subthalamic nucleus, DBS locally excites and concurrently inhibits at single-unit level, synchronizes low-frequency activity, and desynchronizes beta activity and also induces neurochemical changes in cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) and GABA concentrations. DBS-induced effects at system level can be studied through evoked potentials, autonomic tests, spinal cord segmental system, motor cortical and brainstem excitability, gait, and decision-making tasks. All these variables are influenced by DBS, suggesting also distant effects on nonmotor structures of the brain. Last, advances in understanding the neurophysiological mechanisms underlying DBS led researchers to develop a new adaptive DBS technology designed to adapt stimulation settings to the individual patient's clinical condition through a closed-loop system controlled by signals from the basal ganglia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-55
Number of pages33
JournalInternational Review of Neurobiology
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Basal ganglia
  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Local field potentials
  • Mechanisms of action
  • Movement disorders
  • Neuromodulation
  • Neurophysiology
  • Neurosurgery
  • Single-unit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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