Pace of movement: The role of single neurons in the subthalamic nucleus

Ariel Tankus, Anat Mirelman, Nir Giladi, Itzhak Fried, Jeffrey M. Hausdorff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE The ability to modulate the pace of movement is a critical factor in the smooth operation of the motor system. The authors recently described distinct and overlapping representations of movement kinematics in the subthalamic nucleus (STN), but it is still unclear how movement pace is modulated according to the demands of the task at the neuronal level in this area. The goal of this study was to clarify how different movement paces are being controlled by neurons in the STN. METHODS The authors performed direct recording of the electrical activity of single neurons in the STN of neurosurgical patients with Parkinson’s disease undergoing implantation of a deep brain stimulator under local anesthesia while the patients performed repetitive foot and hand movements intraoperatively at multiple paces. RESULTS A change was observed in the neuronal population controlling the movement for each pace. The mechanism for switching between these controlling populations differs for hand and foot movements. CONCLUSIONS These findings suggest that disparate schemes are utilized in the STN for neuronal recruitment for motor control of the upper and lower extremities. The results indicate a distributed model of motor control within the STN, where the active neuronal population changes when modifying the task condition and pace.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1835-1840
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Neurosurgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Functional neurosurgery
  • Hands and feet motor control
  • Movement pace
  • Neuronal recruitment
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Single-unit recording
  • Subthalamic nucleus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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