Motor Cortical Plasticity Relates to Symptom Severity and Clinical Benefit From Deep Brain Stimulation in Cervical Dystonia

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To investigate the relationship between motor cortical plasticity, intracortical inhibition, and clinical response to pallidal deep brain stimulation (DBS) in patients with cervical dystonia (CD).

Materials and Methods:

Response to paired associative stimulation (PAS) and short interval intracortical inhibition (SICI) were assessed in patients with CD before and after three months of DBS and correlated with severity of dystonic symptoms as assessed by Toronto-Western-Spasmodic Torticollis Rating Scale (TWSTRS) severity score. Relations of electrophysiological parameters with clinical improvement were explored with correlation analysis.


Patients with higher levels of plasticity before surgery showed higher symptom severity (R = 0.83, p = 0.008) but had also the larger clinical benefit following DBS (R = 0.88, p = 0.003). This correlation was independent from preoperative (preOP) TWSTRS motor score as revealed by partial correlation analysis. Intracortical inhibition was not altered in CD and not related to clinical outcome after DBS.


Our findings indicate that a high degree of preOP plasticity is associated with higher symptom severity, underlining the role of abnormal plasticity in the pathophysiology of dystonia. At the same time individual degree of plasticity may drive reestablishment of normal motor programs, leading to better clinical outcome with DBS. The latter suggests that individual PAS-response may indicate the susceptibility for neuromodulatory processes as an important factor for clinical DBS effects. It might therefore serve as a neurophysiological marker to predict outcome and guide patient selection.

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