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Differential Cognitive Effects of Unilateral Subthalamic Nucleus Deep Brain Stimulation for Parkinson's Disease

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Ann Neurol. 2024 Mar 19. doi: 10.1002/ana.26903. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to investigate the cognitive effects of unilateral directional versus ring subthalamic nucleus deep brain stimulation (STN DBS) in patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease.

METHODS: We examined 31 participants who underwent unilateral STN DBS (left n = 17; right n = 14) as part of an National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored randomized, double-blind, crossover study contrasting directional versus ring stimulation. All participants received unilateral DBS implants in the hemisphere more severely affected by motor parkinsonism. Measures of cognition included verbal fluency, auditory-verbal memory, and response inhibition. We used mixed linear models to contrast the effects of directional versus ring stimulation and implant hemisphere on longitudinal cognitive function.

RESULTS: Crossover analyses showed no evidence for group-level changes in cognitive performance related to directional versus ring stimulation. Implant hemisphere, however, impacted cognition in several ways. Left STN participants had lower baseline verbal fluency than patients with right implants (t [20.66 = -2.50, p = 0.02]). Verbal fluency declined after left (p = 0.013) but increased after right STN DBS (p < 0.001), and response inhibition was faster following right STN DBS (p = 0.031). Regardless of hemisphere, delayed recall declined modestly over time versus baseline (p = 0.001), and immediate recall was unchanged.

INTERPRETATION: Directional versus ring STN DBS did not differentially affect cognition. Similar to prior bilateral DBS studies, unilateral left stimulation worsened verbal fluency performance. In contrast, unilateral right STN surgery increased performance on verbal fluency and response inhibition tasks. Our findings raise the hypothesis that unilateral right STN DBS in selected patients with predominant right brain motor parkinsonism could mitigate declines in verbal fluency associated with the bilateral intervention. ANN NEUROL 2024.

PMID:38501317 | DOI:10.1002/ana.26903

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