Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Synchronized oscillations within and between brain areas facilitate normal processing, but are often amplified in disease. A prominent example is the abnormally sustained beta-frequency (∼20 Hz) oscillations recorded from the cortex and subthalamic nucleus of Parkinson's disease patients. Computational modeling suggests that the amplitude of such oscillations could be modulated by applying stimulation at a specific phase. Such a strategy would allow selective targeting of the oscillation, with relatively little effect on other activity parameters. Here, activity was recorded from 10 awake, parkinsonian patients (6 male, 4 female human subjects) undergoing functional neurosurgery. We demonstrate that stimulation arriving on a particular patient-specific phase of the beta oscillation over consecutive cycles could suppress the amplitude of this pathophysiological activity by up to 40%, while amplification effects were relatively weak. Suppressive effects were accompanied by a reduction in the rhythmic output of subthalamic nucleus (STN) neurons and synchronization with the mesial cortex. While stimulation could alter the spiking pattern of STN neurons, there was no net effect on firing rate, suggesting that reduced beta synchrony was a result of alterations to the relative timing of spiking activity, rather than an overall change in excitability. Together, these results identify a novel intrinsic property of cortico-basal ganglia synchrony that suggests the phase of ongoing neural oscillations could be a viable and effective control signal for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. This work has potential implications for other brain diseases with exaggerated neuronal synchronization and for probing the function of rhythmic activity in the healthy brain.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT In Parkinson's disease (PD), movement impairment is correlated with exaggerated beta frequency oscillations in the cerebral cortex and subthalamic nucleus (STN). Using a novel method of stimulation in PD patients undergoing neurosurgery, we demonstrate that STN beta oscillations can be suppressed when consecutive electrical pulses arrive at a specific phase of the oscillation. This effect is likely because of interrupting the timing of neuronal activity rather than excitability, as stimulation altered the firing pattern of STN spiking without changing overall rate. These findings show the potential of oscillation phase as an input for "closed-loop" stimulation, which could provide a valuable neuromodulation strategy for the treatment of brain disorders and for elucidating the role of neuronal oscillations in the healthy brain.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci

Publication Date





1119 - 1134


Parkinson's disease, beta oscillations, clinical neurophysiology, deep brain stimulation, subthalamic nucleus, synchrony