Lipski WJ, Wozny TA, Alhourani A, Kondylis ED, Turner RS,Crammond DJ, Richardson RM.Dynamics of human subthalamic neuron phase-locking to motor and sensory cortical oscillations during movement.J Neurophysiol 118: 1472–1487, 2017. First published June 7, 2017; doi:10.1152/jn.00964.2016.
Coupled oscillatory activity recorded between sensorimotor regions of the basal ganglia-thalamo cortical loop is thought to reflect information transfer relevant to movement. A neuronal firing-rate model of basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical circuitry, however, has dominated thinking about basal ganglia function for the past three decades, without knowledge of the relationship between basal ganglia single neuron firing and cortical population activity during movement itself. We recorded activity from 34 subthalamic nucleus (STN) neurons, simultaneously with cortical local field potentials and motor output, in 11 subjects with Parkinson’s disease (PD) undergoing awake deep brain stimulator lead placement. STN firing demonstrated phase synchronization to both low- and high-beta-frequency cortical oscillations, and to the amplitude envelope of gamma oscillations, in motor cortex. We found that during movement, the magnitude of this synchronization was dynamically modulated in a phase-frequency-specific manner. Importantly, we found that phase synchronization was not correlated with changes in neuronal firing rate. Furthermore, we found that these relationships were not exclusive to motor cortex, because STN firing also demonstrated phase synchronization to both pre motor and sensory cortex.The data indicate that models of basal ganglia function ultimately will need to account for the activity of populations of STN neurons that are bound in distinct functional networks with both motor and sensory cortices and code for movement parameters independent of changes in firing rate.