Epileptic Disorders


Selective deep brain stimulation in the substantia nigra reduces myoclonus in progressive myoclonic epilepsy: a novel observation and short review of the literature Volume 21, issue 3, June 2019


  • Figure 1


1 Department of Neurology, University Hospital and university of Zurich,
2 Swiss Epilepsy Centre,
3 Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland
* Correspondence: Lukas Imbach Frauenklinikstrasse 26, 8091 Zürich, Switzerland

We report the case of a patient suffering from pharmacotherapy-resistant bilateral progressive myoclonic epilepsy (PME) showing a beneficial response upon selective deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the substantia nigra pars reticulata. As an individual experimental therapeutic approach, we implanted DBS electrodes in the transitional zone between the subthalamic nucleus (STN) and the substantia nigra pars reticulata (SNr). Electrode placement allowed for a selective stimulation of either the STN, SNr, or both targets. Postoperatively, we observed a moderate subjective and objective improvement in positive and negative myoclonus by high-frequency DBS of the STN/SNr transitional zone. However, a systematic exploration of different stimulation settings revealed that monopolar stimulation of the substantia nigra alone was more effective than high-frequency monopolar DBS of either the motor STN (monopolar) or stimulation of both targets (STN/SNr). This observation confirms earlier findings showing that patients with PME benefit from high-frequency DBS. However, in contrast to previous reports stimulating the STN/SNr transitional zone, our patient showed the most significant effect upon selective stimulation of the SNr. We propose that in patients undergoing DBS for myoclonus, at least one electrode contact should be placed in the SNr allowing for selective monopolar stimulation of this target.