• subthalamic DBS;
  • response speed;
  • task specificity;
  • Parkinson's disease


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) accelerates reaction time (RT) in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD), particularly in tasks in which decisions on the response side have to be made. This might indicate that DBS speeds up both motor and nonmotor operations. Therefore, we studied the extent to which modifications of different processing streams could explain changes of RT under subthalamic DBS. Ten PD patients on-DBS and off-DBS and 10 healthy subjects performed a choice-response task (CRT), requiring either right or left finger button presses. At the same time, EEG recordings were performed, so that RTs could be assessed together with lateralized readiness potentials (LRP), indicative of movement preparation. Additionally, an oddball task (OT) was run, in which right finger responses to target stimuli were recorded along with cognitive P300 responses. Generally, PD patients off-DBS had longer RTs than controls. Subthalamic DBS accelerated RT only in CRT. This could largely be explained by analog shortenings of LRP. No DBS-dependent changes were identified in OT, neither on the level of RT nor on the level of P300 latencies. It follows that RT accelerations under DBS of the STN are predominantly due to effects on the timing of motor instead of nonmotor processes. This starting point explains why DBS gains of response speed are low in tasks in which reactions are initiated from an advanced level of movement preparation (as in OT), and high whenever motor responses have to be raised from scratch (as in CRT). © 2010 Movement Disorder Society