The dominant-subthalamic nucleus phenomenon in bilateral deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease: Evidence from a gait analysis study

Mario Giorgio Rizzone, Maurizio Ferrarin, Michele Maria Lanotte, Leonardo Lopiano, Ilaria Carpinella

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: It has been suggested that parkinsonian [Parkinson's disease (PD)] patients might have a "dominant" (DOM) subthalamic nucleus (STN), whose unilateral electrical stimulation [deep brain stimulation (DBS)] could lead to an improvement in PD symptoms similar to bilateral STN-DBS. Objectives: Since disability in PD patients is often related to gait problems, in this study, we wanted to investigate in a group of patients bilaterally implanted for STN-DBS: (1) if it was possible to identify a subgroup of subjects with a dominant STN; (2) in the case, if the unilateral stimulation of the dominant STN was capable to improve gait abnormalities, as assessed by instrumented multifactorial gait analysis, similarly to what observed with bilateral stimulation. Methods: We studied 10 PD patients with bilateral STN-DBS. A clinical evaluation and a kinematic, kinetic, and electromyographic (EMG) analysis of overground walking were performed-off medication-in four conditions: without stimulation, with bilateral stimulation, with unilateral right or left STN-DBS. Through a hierarchical agglomerative cluster analysis based on motor Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale scores, it was possible to separate patients into two groups, based on the presence (six patients, DOM group) or absence (four patients, NDOM group) of a dominant STN. Results: In the DOM group, both bilateral and unilateral stimulation of the dominant STN significantly increased gait speed, stride length, range of motion of lower limb joints, and peaks of moment and power at the ankle joint moreover, the EMG activation pattern of distal leg muscles was improved. The unilateral stimulation of the non-dominant STN did not produce any significant effect. In the NDOM group, only bilateral stimulation determined a significant improvement of gait parameters. Conclusion: In the DOM group, the effect of unilateral stimulation of the dominant STN determined an improvement of gait parameters similar to bilateral stimulation. The pre-surgical identification of these patients, if possible, could allow to reduce the surgical risks and side effects of DBS adopting a unilateral approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number575
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Issue numberOCT
Publication statusPublished - Oct 30 2017


  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Dominant subthalamic nucleus
  • Electromyography
  • Gait
  • Instrumented movement analysis
  • Kinematics
  • Kinetics
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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