Deep brain stimulation of the central thalamus restores arousal and motivation in a zolpidem-responsive patient with akinetic mutism after severe brain injury

Hisse Arnts, Prejaas Tewarie, Willemijn van Erp, Rick Schuurman, Lennard I. Boon, Cyriel M.A. Pennartz, Cornelis J. Stam, Arjan Hillebrand, Pepijn van den Munckhof*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Abstract

After severe brain injury, zolpidem is known to cause spectacular, often short-lived, restorations of brain functions in a small subgroup of patients. Previously, we showed that these zolpidem-induced neurological recoveries can be paralleled by significant changes in functional connectivity throughout the brain. Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a neurosurgical intervention known to modulate functional connectivity in a wide variety of neurological disorders. In this study, we used DBS to restore arousal and motivation in a zolpidem-responsive patient with severe brain injury and a concomitant disorder of diminished motivation, more than 10 years after surviving hypoxic ischemia. We found that DBS of the central thalamus, targeted at the centromedian-parafascicular complex, immediately restored arousal and was able to transition the patient from a state of deep sleep to full wakefulness. Moreover, DBS was associated with temporary restoration of communication and ability to walk and eat in an otherwise wheelchair-bound and mute patient. With the use of magnetoencephalography (MEG), we revealed that DBS was generally associated with a marked decrease in aberrantly high levels of functional connectivity throughout the brain, mimicking the effects of zolpidem. These results imply that 'pathological hyperconnectivity' after severe brain injury can be associated with reduced arousal and behavioral performance and that DBS is able to modulate connectivity towards a 'healthier baseline' with lower synchronization, and, can restore functional brain networks long after severe brain injury. The presence of hyperconnectivity after brain injury may be a possible future marker for a patient's responsiveness for restorative interventions, such as DBS, and suggests that lower degrees of overall brain synchronization may be conducive to cognition and behavioral responsiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2950
Number of pages1
JournalScientific reports
Volume14
Issue number1
Early online date5 Feb 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print/First online - 5 Feb 2024
Externally publishedYes

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