BACKGROUND: Psychiatric and neuropsychological side effects of subthalamic nucleus (STN) stimulation have been increasingly recognized. Most programming regimens focus on contacts 0 and 1, whereas contact 3, which often is located near or in the zona incerta (ZI), is usually not used. The question of whether ZI stimulation may limit limbic effects has not been answered.
OBJECTIVE: To examine the effects of short-term stimulation near or in the ZI (contact 3) compared with stimulation of the STN using standard trajectories and targeting as measured by limbic and motor functions.
METHODS: Motor and limbic functions of 11 patients with STN DBS were assessed with the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale-3, structured gait video analysis, Visual Analog Scale mood scales, task testing of impulsivity, and facial recognition under routine STN programming and under stimulation in or near the ZI. Postoperative magnetic resonance imaging confirmed the location of contact 3 near or in the ZI.
RESULTS: Data analysis with repeated-measures analysis of variance revealed that motor scores remained stable with both stimulation settings, with specific improvements in finger taps (P = .02) and rapid alternating movements (P = .03) in ZI stimulation. Stimulation near or in the ZI led to a decrease in self- reported anxiety and depression (P = .03 for both) and an improvement in fear recognition (P = .02).
CONCLUSION: We provide preliminary evidence that stimulation in or near the ZI results in maintained motor function while improving self-reported depression and anxiety in patients with bilateral STN DBS. Stimulation in or near the ZI may provide a useful programming setting for patients prone to psychiatric side effects.