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The Connectivity and Function of the Human Zona Incerta
Wednesday, 28 May 2008 11:30

In 2009, the Surgical NeuroDiscovery Group commenced scientific studies of the posterior subthalamic region (caudal zona incerta) in clients undergoing deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease and tremor. Our normal practice is to spend a week performing clinical tests with the brain electrodes externally accessible prior to committing a client to a long-term implanted pulse generator, to ensure adequate response to available stimulation parameters.

In 2009, those undergoing innovative stimulation of the zona incerta will have the opportunity to have recordingsĀ  from and trial stimulation of this tiny part of the brain which will provide novel insight into its functions in health and disease. Current knowledge of the specific functions of this tiny nucleus in the brain is scant, despite pioneering surgery at the site indicating unprecedented benefits in terms of tremor control and improvement in parkinsonian symptoms when stimulated in clinical situations.

We are investigating the activity of the zona incerta during physical activity, at rest, and during visual tasks. At low stimulus levels we switch the zona on and off at different frequencies to assess the subtle functioning of this little-studied but significant part of the brain. PET scans by Dr Peter Robins are being used to study what parts of the brain may be more or less active during deep brain stimulation. In our NeuroDiscovery Clinic at the ANRI we will are following the effects of subsequent long-term deep brain stimulation in Parkinson's disease and essential tremor to investigate the putative clinical advantages of stimulation at this cutting edge location. Research Clinics held at UWA's Fremantle Hospital campus led by Winthrop Professor Starkstein are used to measure any neuropsychological effects of stimulation.

Zona Incerta Collaborators

Neurologists: Dr Julian Rodrigues, Dr Rick Stell, Parkinson's Group, CNND, UWA

Neuropsychiatrist: Winthrop Professor Sergio Starkstein at School of Clinical Neuroscience, Fremantle Campus, UWA

Nuclear Medicine Physician: Dr Peter Robins, WA PET Centre, SCGH

Neurosurgeon: Professor Steven Gill, Frenchay Hospital, Bristol, UK



For more information on the project see: Detailed Background and Research Plan: The Function of the Human Zona Incerta and its Potential as a Target for Deep Brain Stimulation Surgery