• deep brain stimulation;
  • electrophysiology;
  • Parkinson’s disease;
  • spontaneous activity;
  • subthalamic nucleus


The subthalamic nucleus (STN) is the main target for deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s disease. We analysed the relationships between magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) anatomy and spontaneous neuronal activity to confirm the potential of microelectrode recordings to assist in determining the optimal surgical target. Ten bilateral surgeries were performed after 1.5-T (T2-weighted) anatomical MRI identification of the STN, zona incerta (ZI), Forel’s field H2 (H2) and substantia nigra (SN). Spontaneous neuronal activity was recorded simultaneously along the distal 10 mm on a central track (optimally covering the STN) and a 2-mm anterior track. We calculated off-line mean firing rate and burst frequency on 248 neurons clustered according to anatomical structure. Subjective visual analysis of signal was also realized on-line, during surgery, to classify patterns of activity. Mean firing rate and burst frequency increased from H2–ZI to SN. The mean firing rate was higher in SN only using paired comparison (SN vs. its neighbours). The burst frequency was lower in H2 than in SN; using comparison with neighbours, it was lower in H2 and ZI. An irregular high activity (type 2C) was more often detected in STN and SN than in H2 and ZI. Anatomical boundaries and unitary recordings appear to be linked, supporting the ability of MRI to provide a detailed anatomy. Electrophysiological mapping combined with MRI is a useful tool for precise targeting in the subthalamic region.