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Papers: 12 Dec 2020 - 18 Dec 2020

2020 Dec 13


Deep brain stimulation of the brainstem.


Elias GJB, Loh A, Gwun D, Pancholi A, Boutet A, Neudorfer C, Germann J, Namasivayam A, Gramer R, Paff M, Lozano AM
Brain. 2020 Dec 13.
PMID: 33313788.


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus, pallidum, and thalamus is an established therapy for various movement disorders. Limbic targets have also been increasingly explored for their application to neuropsychiatric and cognitive disorders. The brainstem constitutes another DBS substrate, although the existing literature on the indications for and the effects of brainstem stimulation remains comparatively sparse. The objective of this review was to provide a comprehensive overview of the pertinent anatomy, indications, and reported stimulation-induced acute and long-term effects of existing white and grey matter brainstem DBS targets. We systematically searched the published literature, reviewing clinical trial articles pertaining to DBS brainstem targets. Overall, 164 studies describing brainstem DBS were identified. These studies encompassed 10 discrete structures: periaqueductal/periventricular grey (n = 63), pedunculopontine nucleus (n = 48), ventral tegmental area (n = 22), substantia nigra (n = 9), mesencephalic reticular formation (n = 7), medial forebrain bundle (n = 8), superior cerebellar peduncles (n = 3), red nucleus (n = 3), parabrachial complex (n = 2), and locus coeruleus (n = 1). Indications for brainstem DBS varied widely and included central neuropathic pain, axial symptoms of movement disorders, headache, depression, and vegetative state. The most promising results for brainstem DBS have come from targeting the pedunculopontine nucleus for relief of axial motor deficits, periaqueductal/periventricular grey for the management of central neuropathic pain, and ventral tegmental area for treatment of cluster headaches. Brainstem DBS has also acutely elicited numerous motor, limbic, and autonomic effects. Further work involving larger, controlled trials is necessary to better establish the therapeutic potential of DBS in this complex area.