Spatio-Temporal structure of single neuron subthalamic activity identifies DBS target for anesthetized Tourette syndrome patients

Matteo Vissani, Roberto Cordella, Silvestro Micera, Roberto Eleopra, Luigi M. Romito, Alberto Mazzoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of basal ganglia effectively tackles motor symptoms of movement disorders such as Tourette syndrome (TS). The precise location of target stimulation site determines the range of clinical outcome in DBS patients, and the occurrence of side-effects of DBS. DBS implant procedures currently localize stimulation target relying on a combination of pre-surgical imaging, standardized brain atlases and on-The-spot clinical tests. Here we show that temporal structure of single unit activity in subthalamic nucleus (STN) of patients affected by pure TS can contribute to identify the optimal target location of DBS. Approach. Neural activity was recorded at different depths within STN with microelectrodes during DBS implant surgery. Depth specific neural features were extracted and correlated with the optimal depth for tic control. Main results. We describe for the first time temporal spike patterns of single neurons from sensorimotor STN of anesthetized TS patients. A large fraction of units (31.2%) displayed intense bursting in the delta band (<4 Hz). The highest firing irregularity and hence the higher density of bursting units (42%) were found at the optimal spot for tic control. Discharge patterns irregularity and dominant oscillations frequency (but not firing rate) carried significant information on optimal target. Significance. We found single unit activity features in the STN of TS patients reliably associated to optimal DBS target site for tic control. In future works measures of firing irregularity could be integrated with current target localization methods leading to a more effective and safer DBS for TS patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number066011
JournalJournal of Neural Engineering
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Oct 23 2019


  • deep brain stimulation
  • microrecordings
  • movement disorders
  • subthalamic nucleus
  • Tourette syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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