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Subthalamic nucleus stimulation selectively improves motor and visual memory performance in Parkinson's disease§


  • Funding agencies: This research was partially supported by a grant from CNRS (CTI grant) to J.V.D.

  • Relevant conflicts of interest/financial disclosures: Nothing to report.

  • §

    Full financial disclosures and author roles may be found in the online version of this article.


Although the treatment of Parkinson's disease via subthalamic stimulation yields remarkable improvements in motor symptoms, its effects on memory function are less clear. In this context, we previously demonstrated dissociable effects of levodopa therapy on parkinsonian performance in spatial and nonspatial visual working memory. Here we used the same protocol with an additional, purely motor task to investigate visual memory and motor performance in 2 groups of patients with Parkinson's disease with or without subthalamic stimulation. In each stimulation condition, subjects performed a simple motor task and 3 successive cognitive tasks: 1 conditional color-response association task and 2 visual (spatial and nonspatial) working memory tasks. The Parkinson's groups were compared with a control group of age-matched healthy subjects. Our principal results demonstrated that (1) in the motor task, stimulated patients were significantly improved with respect to nonstimulated patients and did not differ significantly from healthy controls, and (2) in the cognitive tasks, stimulated patients were significantly improved with respect to nonstimulated patients, but both remained significantly impaired when compared with healthy controls. These results demonstrate selective effects of subthalamic stimulation on parkinsonian disorders of motor and visual memory functions, with clear motor improvement for stimulated patients and a partial improvement for their visual memory processing. © 2011 Movement Disorder Society