Epilepsy has been classically seen as a brain disorder resulting from abnormally enhanced neuronal excitability and synchronization. Although it has been described since antiquity, there are still significant challenges achieving the therapeutic goal of seizure freedom. Deep brain stimulation of the anterior nucleus of the thalamus has emerged as a promising therapy for focal drug-resistant epilepsy; the basic mechanism of action, however, remains unclear. Here, we show that desynchronization is a potential mechanism of deep brain stimulation of the anterior nucleus of the thalamus by studying local field potentials recordings from the cortex during high-frequency stimulation (130 Hz) of the anterior nucleus of the thalamus in nine patients with drug-resistant focal epilepsy. We demonstrate that high-frequency stimulation applied to the anterior nucleus of the thalamus desynchronizes ipsilateral hippocampal background electrical activity over a broad frequency range, and reduces pathological epileptic discharges including interictal spikes and high-frequency oscillations. Furthermore, high-frequency stimulation of the anterior nucleus of the thalamus is capable of decoupling large-scale neural activity involving the hippocampus and distributed cortical areas. We found that stimulation frequencies ranging from 15 to 45 Hz were associated with synchronization of hippocampal local field potentials, whereas higher frequencies (>45 Hz) promoted desynchronization of ipsilateral hippocampal activity. Moreover, reciprocal effective connectivity between the anterior nucleus of the thalamus and the hippocampus was demonstrated by hippocampal-thalamic evoked potentials and thalamic-hippocampal evoked potentials. In summary, high-frequency stimulation of the anterior nucleus of the thalamus is shown to desynchronize focal and large-scale epileptic networks, and here is proposed as the mechanism for reducing seizure generation and propagation. Our data also demonstrate position-specific correlation between deep brain stimulation applied to the anterior nucleus of the thalamus and patients with temporal lobe epilepsy and seizure onset zone within the Papaz circuit or limbic system. Our observation may prove useful for guiding electrode implantation to increase clinical efficacy.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Clinical Neurology