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A direct relationship between oscillatory subthalamic nucleus-cortex coupling and rest tremor in Parkinson's disease

Hirschmann, Jan
Hartmann, Christian J.
Butz, Markus
Hoogenboom, Nienke
Özkurt, Tolga Esat
Elben, Saskia
Vesper, Jan
Wojtecki, Lars
Schnitzler, Alfons
Electrophysiological studies suggest that rest tremor in Parkinson's disease is associated with an alteration of oscillatory activity. Although it is well known that tremor depends on cortico-muscular coupling, it is unclear whether synchronization within and between brain areas is specifically related to the presence and severity of tremor. To tackle this longstanding issue, we took advantage of naturally occurring spontaneous tremor fluctuations and investigated cerebral synchronization in the presence and absence of rest tremor. We simultaneously recorded local field potentials from the subthalamic nucleus, the magnetoencephalogram and the electromyogram of forearm muscles in 11 patients with Parkinson's disease (all male, age: 52-74 years). Recordings took place the day after surgery for deep brain stimulation, after withdrawal of anti-parkinsonian medication. We selected epochs containing spontaneous rest tremor and tremor-free epochs, respectively, and compared power and coherence between subthalamic nucleus, cortex and muscle across conditions. Tremor-associated changes in cerebro-muscular coherence were localized by Dynamic Imaging of Coherent Sources. Subsequently, cortico-cortical coupling was analysed by computation of the imaginary part of coherency, a coupling measure insensitive to volume conduction. After tremor onset, local field potential power increased at individual tremor frequency and cortical power decreased in the beta band (13-30 Hz). Sensor level subthalamic nucleus-cortex, cortico-muscular and subthalamic nucleus-muscle coherence increased during tremor specifically at tremor frequency. The increase in subthalamic nucleus-cortex coherence correlated with the increase in electromyogram power. On the source level, we observed tremor-associated increases in cortico-muscular coherence in primary motor cortex, premotor cortex and posterior parietal cortex contralateral to the tremulous limb. Analysis of the imaginary part of coherency revealed tremor-dependent coupling between these cortical areas at tremor frequency and double tremor frequency. Our findings demonstrate a direct relationship between the synchronization of cerebral oscillations and tremor manifestation. Furthermore, they suggest the feasibility of tremor detection based on local field potentials and might thus become relevant for the design of closed-loop stimulation systems.