Clinical and neurophysiological effects of central thalamic deep brain stimulation in the minimally conscious state after severe brain injury

Hisse Arnts*, Prejaas Tewarie, Willemijn S. van Erp, Berno U. Overbeek, Cornelis J. Stam, Jan C.M. Lavrijsen, Jan Booij, William P. Vandertop, Rick Schuurman, Arjan Hillebrand, Pepijn van den Munckhof

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the central thalamus is an experimental treatment for restoration of impaired consciousness in patients with severe acquired brain injury. Previous results of experimental DBS are heterogeneous, but significant improvements in consciousness have been reported. However, the mechanism of action of DBS remains unknown. We used magnetoencephalography to study the direct effects of DBS of the central thalamus on oscillatory activity and functional connectivity throughout the brain in a patient with a prolonged minimally conscious state. Different DBS settings were used to improve consciousness, including two different stimulation frequencies (50 Hz and 130 Hz) with different effective volumes of tissue activation within the central thalamus. While both types of DBS resulted in a direct increase in arousal, we found that DBS with a lower frequency (50 Hz) and larger volume of tissue activation was associated with a stronger increase in functional connectivity and neural variability throughout the brain. Moreover, this form of DBS was associated with improvements in visual pursuit, a reduction in spasticity, and improvement of swallowing, eight years after loss of consciousness. However, after DBS, all neurophysiological markers remained significantly lower than in healthy controls and objective increases in consciousness remained limited. Our findings provide new insights on the mechanistic understanding of neuromodulatory effects of DBS of the central thalamus in humans and suggest that DBS can re-activate dormant functional brain networks, but that the severely injured stimulated brain still lacks the ability to serve cognitive demands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12932
Number of pages1
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


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