Subcortical neuronal ensembles: An analysis of motor task association, tremor, oscillations, and synchrony in human patients

Timothy L. Hanson, Andrew M. Fuller, Mikhail A. Lebedev, Dennis A. Turner, Miguel A.L. Nicolelis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has expanded as an effective treatment for motor disorders, providing a valuable opportunity for intraoperative recording of the spiking activity of subcortical neurons. The properties of these neurons and their potential utility in neuroprosthetic applications are not completely understood. DuringDBSsurgeries in 25humanpatients with either essential tremor or Parkinson's disease, we acutely recorded the single-unit activity of 274 ventral intermediate/ventral oralis posterior motor thalamus (Vim/Vop) neurons and 123 subthalamic nucleus (STN) neurons. These subcortical neuronal ensembles (up to 23 neurons sampled simultaneously) were recorded while the patients performed a target-tracking motor task using a cursor controlled by a haptic glove. We observed that modulations in firing rate of a substantial number of neurons in both Vim/Vop and STN represented target onset, movement onset/direction, and hand tremor. Neurons in both areas exhibited rhythmic oscillations and pairwise synchrony. Notably, all tremorassociated neurons exhibited synchrony within the ensemble. The data further indicate that oscillatory (likely pathological) neurons and behaviorally tuned neurons are not distinct but rather form overlapping sets. Whereas previous studies have reported a linear relationship between power spectra of neuronal oscillations and hand tremor, we report a nonlinear relationship suggestive of complex encoding schemes. Even in the presence of this pathological activity, linear models were able to extract motor parameters from ensemble discharges. Based on these findings, we propose that chronic multielectrode recordings from Vim/Vop and STN could prove useful for further studying, monitoring, and even treating motor disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8620-8632
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number25
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes


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