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Keywords:

  • basal ganglia;
  • high-frequency stimulation;
  • Parkinson’s disease

Abstract

Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a remarkably successful treatment for the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. High-frequency stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) within the basal ganglia is a main clinical target, but the physiological mechanisms of therapeutic STN DBS at the cellular and network level are unclear. We set out to begin to address the hypothesis that a mixture of responses in the basal ganglia output nuclei, combining regularized firing and inhibition, is a key contributor to the effectiveness of STN DBS. We used our computational model of the complete basal ganglia circuit to show how such a mixture of responses in basal ganglia output naturally arises from the network effects of STN DBS. We replicated the diversification of responses recorded in a primate STN DBS study to show that the model’s predicted mixture of responses is consistent with therapeutic STN DBS. We then showed how this ‘mixture of response’ perspective suggests new ideas for DBS mechanisms: first, that the therapeutic frequency of STN DBS is above 100 Hz because the diversification of responses exhibits a step change above this frequency; and second, that optogenetic models of direct STN stimulation during DBS have proven therapeutically ineffective because they do not replicate the mixture of basal ganglia output responses evoked by electrical DBS.