STN DBS may Worsen Balance Compared to GPi DBS

Fay Horak, et. al., at the Oregon Health & Science University just published this paper suggesting that STN DBS may have a more detrimental effect on balance as compared to GPi DBS.  Many studies are now focusing on better defining the differences in the surgical targets chosen for Parkinson’s disease.

Below is the abstract from her study:

J Neurosurg. 2012 Mar 16. [Epub ahead of print]

The effects of subthalamic and pallidal deep brain stimulation on postural responses in patients with Parkinson disease.

St George RJ, Carlson-Kuhta P, Burchiel KJ, Hogarth P, Frank N, Horak FB.


Object The effect of deep brain stimulation (DBS) for Parkinson disease (PD) on balance is unclear. The goal of this study was to investigate how automatic postural responses (APRs) were affected in patients randomized to either subthalamic nucleus (STN) or globus pallidus internus (GPi) surgery. Methods The authors tested 24 patients with PD who underwent bilateral DBS, 9 control patients with PD who did not undergo DBS, and 17 age-matched control volunteers. The electrode placement site was randomized and blinded to the patients and to the experimenters. Kinematic, kinetic, and electromyographic recordings of postural responses to backward disequilibrium via forward translations of the standing surface were recorded in the week prior to surgery while the patients were off (OFF) and on (ON) antiparkinsonian medication (levodopa), and then 6 months after surgery in 4 conditions: 1) off medication with DBS switched off (OFF/OFF); 2) off medication with DBS on (DBS); 3) on medication with DBS off (DOPA); and 4) with both medication and DBS on (DBS+DOPA). Stability of the automatic postural response (APR) was measured as the difference between the displacement of the center of pressure and the projected location of the center of body mass. Results Patients with PD had worse APR stability than controls. Turning the DBS on at either site improved APR stability compared with the postoperative OFF condition by lengthening the tibialis response, whereas medication did not show an appreciable effect. The STN group had worse APR stability in their best functional state (DBS+DOPA) 6 months after the DBS procedure compared with their best functional state (ON levodopa) before the DBS procedure. In contrast, the GPi group and the PD control group showed no change over 6 months. The APR stability impairment in the STN group was associated with smaller tibialis response amplitudes, but there was no change in response latency or coactivation with gastrocnemius. Conclusions Turning the DBS current on improved APR stability for both STN and GPi sites. However, there was a detrimental DBS procedural effect for the STN group, and this effect was greater than the benefit of the stimulating current, making overall APR stability functionally worse after surgery for the STN group.

Pubmed link

About the Author


Michael Okun

Professor of Neurology, expert on Parkinson's disease and other basal ganglia disorders, deep brain stimulation, author of over 300 research papers and the bestselling book…

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