Congratulations to Drs. Takashi Tsuboi, Joshua K Wong, Robert S Eisinger, Mathew R Burns, Adolfo Ramirez-Zamora, Leonardo Almeida, Aparna Wagle Shukla, Kelly D Foote, and Michael S Okun on the publication of “Comparative connectivity correlates of dystonic and essential tremor deep brain stimulation,” in the April edition of Brain, Neuroinflamation Collection.


The pathophysiology of dystonic tremor and essential tremor remains partially understood. In patients with medication-refractory dystonic tremor or essential tremor, deep brain stimulation (DBS) targeting the thalamus or posterior subthalamic area has evolved into a promising treatment option. However, the optimal DBS targets for these disorders remains unknown. This retrospective study explored the optimal targets for DBS in essential tremor and dystonic tremor using a combination of volumes of tissue activated estimation and functional and structural connectivity analyses. We included 20 patients with dystonic tremor who underwent unilateral thalamic DBS, along with a matched cohort of 20 patients with essential tremor DBS. Tremor severity was assessed preoperatively and approximately 6 months after DBS implantation using the Fahn-Tolosa-Marin Tremor Rating Scale. The tremor-suppressing effects of DBS were estimated using the percentage improvement in the unilateral tremor-rating scale score contralateral to the side of implantation. The optimal stimulation region, based on the cluster centre of gravity for peak contralateral motor score improvement, for essential tremor was located in the ventral intermediate nucleus region and for dystonic tremor in the ventralis oralis posterior nucleus region along the ventral intermediate nucleus/ventralis oralis posterior nucleus border (4 mm anterior and 3 mm superior to that for essential tremor). Both disorders showed similar functional connectivity patterns: a positive correlation between tremor improvement and involvement of the primary sensorimotor, secondary motor and associative prefrontal regions. Tremor improvement, however, was tightly correlated with the primary sensorimotor regions in essential tremor, whereas in dystonic tremor, the correlation was tighter with the premotor and prefrontal regions. The dentato-rubro-thalamic tract, comprising the decussating and non-decussating fibres, significantly correlated with tremor improvement in both dystonic and essential tremor. In contrast, the pallidothalamic tracts, which primarily project to the ventralis oralis posterior nucleus region, significantly correlated with tremor improvement only in dystonic tremor. Our findings support the hypothesis that the pathophysiology underpinning dystonic tremor involves both the cerebello-thalamo-cortical network and the basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical network. Further our data suggest that the pathophysiology of essential tremor is primarily attributable to the abnormalities within the cerebello-thalamo-cortical network. We conclude that the ventral intermediate nucleus/ventralis oralis posterior nucleus border and ventral intermediate nucleus region may be a reasonable DBS target for patients with medication-refractory dystonic tremor and essential tremor, respectively. Uncovering the pathophysiology of these disorders may in the future aid in further improving DBS outcomes.

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