Neurophysiological mechanisms of deep brain stimulation across spatiotemporal resolutions

Member Authors
Neumann WJ, Steiner LA, Milosevic L


Deep brain stimulation is a neuromodulatory treatment for managing the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and other neurological and psychiatric disorders. Electrodes are chronically implanted in disease-relevant brain regions and pulsatile electrical stimulation delivery is intended to restore neurocircuit function. However, the widespread interest in the application and expansion of this clinical therapy has preceded an overarching understanding of the neurocircuit alterations invoked by deep brain stimulation. Over the years, various forms of neurophysiological evidence have emerged which demonstrate changes to brain activity across spatiotemporal resolutions; from single neuron, to local field potential, to brain-wide cortical network effects. Though fruitful, such studies have often led to debate about a singular putative mechanism. In this Update we aim to produce an integrative account of complementary instead of mutually exclusive neurophysiological effects to derive a generalizable concept of the mechanisms of deep brain stimulation. In particular, we offer a critical review of the most common historical competing theories, an updated discussion on recent literature from animal and human neurophysiological studies, and a synthesis of synaptic and network effects of deep brain stimulation across scales of observation, including micro-, meso- and macroscale circuit alterations.

Published: Nov 2023