Basal Ganglia Pathways Associated with Therapeutic Pallidal Deep Brain Stimulation for Tourette Syndrome

Congratulations Drs. Aysegul Gunduz, Wei Hu, Kelly Foote, and Michael Okun, on the publication of “Basal Ganglia Pathways Associated with Therapeutic Deep Brain Stimulation for Tourette Syndrome.”  This article was published int the November 24th issue of Biological Psychiatry:  Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.




Deep brain stimulation (DBS) targeting the globus pallidus internus (GPi) can improve tics and comorbid obsessive-compulsive behavior (OCB) in patients with treatment-refractory Tourette syndrome (TS). However, some patients’ symptoms remain unresponsive, the stimulation applied across patients is variable, and the mechanisms underlying improvement are unclear. Identifying the fiber pathways surrounding the GPi that are associated with improvement could provide mechanistic insight and refine targeting strategies to improve outcomes.


Retrospective data were collected for 35 patients who underwent bilateral GPi DBS for TS. Computational models of fiber tract activation were constructed using patient-specific lead locations and stimulation settings to evaluate the effects of DBS on basal ganglia pathways and the internal capsule. We first evaluated the relationship between activation of individual pathways and symptom improvement. Next, linear mixed effects models with combinations of pathways and clinical variables were compared to identify the best-fit predictive models of tic and OCB improvement.


The best-fit model of tic improvement included baseline severity and the associative pallido-subthalamic pathway. The best-fit model of OCB improvement included baseline severity and the sensorimotor pallido-subthalamic pathway, with substantial evidence also supporting the involvement of the prefrontal, motor, and premotor internal capsule pathways. The best-fit models of tic and OCB improvement predicted outcomes across the cohort and in cross-validation.


Differences in fiber pathway activation likely contribute to variable outcomes of DBS for TS. Computational models of pathway activation could be used to develop novel approaches for preoperative targeting and selecting stimulation parameters to improve patient outcomes.