Microelectrode recording findings within the tractography-defined ventral intermediate nucleus

J Neurosurg 126:1669–1675, 2017

The ventral intermediate nucleus (VIM) of the thalamus is not visible on structural MRI. Therefore, direct VIM targeting methods for stereotactic tremor surgery are desirable. The authors previously described a direct targeting method for visualizing the VIM and its structural connectivity using deterministic tractography. In this combined electrophysiology and imaging study, the authors investigated the electrophysiology within this tractography-defined VIM (T-VIM).

METHODS Thalamic neurons were classified based on their relative location to the T-VIM: dorsal, within, and ventral to the T-VIM. The authors identified the movement-responsive cells (kinesthetic and tremor cells), performed spike analysis (firing rate and burst index), and local field potential analysis (area under the curve for 13–30 Hz). Tremor efficacy in response to microstimulation along the electrode trajectory was also assessed in relation to the T-VIM.

RESULTS Seventy-three cells from a total of 9 microelectrode tracks were included for this analysis. Movement-responsive cells (20 kinesthetic cells and 26 tremor cells) were identified throughout the electrode trajectories. The mean firing rate and burst index of cells (n = 27) within the T-VIM are 18.8 ± 9.8 Hz and 4.5 ± 5.4, respectively. Significant local field potential beta power was identified within the T-VIM (area under the curve for 13–30 Hz = 6.6 ± 7.7) with a trend toward higher beta power in the dorsal T-VIM. The most significant reduction in tremor was also observed in the dorsal T-VIM.

CONCLUSIONS The electrophysiological findings within the VIM thalamus defined by tractography, or T-VIM, correspond with the known microelectrode recording characteristics of the VIM in patients with tremor.