During stereotactic functional neurosurgery, stimulation procedure to control for proper target localization provides a unique opportunity to investigate pathophysiological phenomena that cannot be addressed in experimental setups. Here we report on the distribution of response modalities to 487 intraoperative thalamic stimulations performed in 24 neurogenic pain (NP), 17 parkinsonian (PD) and 10 neuropsychiatric (Npsy) patients. Threshold responses were subdivided into somatosensory, motor and affective, and compared between medial (central lateral nucleus) and lateral (ventral anterior, ventral lateral and ventral medial) thalamic nuclei and between patients groups. Major findings were as follows: in the medial thalamus, evoked responses were for a large majority (95%) somatosensory in NP patients, 47% were motor in PD patients, and 54% affective in Npsy patients. In the lateral thalamus, a much higher proportion of somatosensory (83%) than motor responses (5%) was evoked in NP patients, while the proportion was reversed in PD patients (69% motor vs. 21% somatosensory). These results provide the first evidence for functional cross-modal changes in lateral and medial thalamic nuclei in response to intraoperative stimulations in different functional disorders. This extensive functional reorganization sheds new light on wide-range plasticity in the adult human thalamocortical system.

Neuroscience. 2009 Dec 29;164(4):1867-75. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.09.064. Epub 2009 Sep 29.

PMID: 19796668