Neural Plasticity in Human Brain Connectivity: The Effects of Long Term Deep Brain Stimulation of the Subthalamic Nucleus in Parkinson’s Disease
van Hartevelt TJ., Cabral J., Deco G., Møller A., Green AL., Aziz TZ., Kringelbach ML.
<sec><title>Background</title><p>Positive clinical outcomes are now well established for deep brain stimulation, but little is known about the effects of long-term deep brain stimulation on brain structural and functional connectivity. Here, we used the rare opportunity to acquire pre- and postoperative diffusion tensor imaging in a patient undergoing deep brain stimulation in bilateral subthalamic nuclei for Parkinson’s Disease. This allowed us to analyse the differences in structural connectivity before and after deep brain stimulation. Further, a computational model of spontaneous brain activity was used to estimate the changes in functional connectivity arising from the specific changes in structural connectivity.</p></sec><sec><title>Results</title><p>We found significant localised structural changes as a result of long-term deep brain stimulation. These changes were found in sensory-motor, prefrontal/limbic, and olfactory brain regions which are known to be affected in Parkinson’s Disease. The nature of these changes was an increase of nodal efficiency in most areas and a decrease of nodal efficiency in the precentral sensory-motor area. Importantly, the computational model clearly shows the impact of deep brain stimulation-induced structural alterations on functional brain changes, which is to shift the neural dynamics back towards a healthy regime. The results demonstrate that deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s Disease leads to a topological reorganisation towards healthy bifurcation of the functional networks measured in controls, which suggests a potential neural mechanism for the alleviation of symptoms.</p></sec><sec><title>Conclusions</title><p>The findings suggest that long-term deep brain stimulation has not only restorative effects on the structural connectivity, but also affects the functional connectivity at a global level. Overall, our results support causal changes in human neural plasticity after long-term deep brain stimulation and may help to identify the underlying mechanisms of deep brain stimulation.</p></sec>