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DBS studies show how brain buys time for tough choices
Date:9/25/2011

the mPFC is faced with a tough decision, it recruits the STN to ward off more impulsive urges coming from the striatum, a third part of the brain. That allows it time to make its decision.

For their first experiment, the researchers designed a computerized decision-making experiment. They asked 65 healthy subjects and 14 subjects with Parkinson's disease to choose between pairs of generic line art images while their mPFC brain activity was recorded. Each image was each associated with a level of reward. Over time the subjects learned which ones carried a greater reward.

Sometimes, however, the subjects would be confronted with images of almost equal reward a relatively tough choice. That's when scalp electrodes detected elevated activity in the mPFC in certain low frequency bands. Lead author and postdoctoral scholar James Cavanagh found that when mPFC activity was larger, healthy participants and Parkinson's participants whose stimulators were off would take proportionally longer to decide. But when deep brain stimulators were turned on to alter STN function, the relationship between mPFC activity and decision making was reversed, leading to decision making that was quicker and less accurate.

The Parkinson's patients whose stimulators were on still showed the same elevated level of activity in the mPFC. The cortex wanted to deliberate, Cavanagh said, but the link to the brakes had been cut.

"Parkinson's patients on DBS had the same signals," he said. "It just didn't relate to behavior. We had knocked out the network."

In the second experiment, the researchers presented eight patients with the same decision-making game while they were on the operating table in Arizona receiving their DBS implant. The researchers used the electrode to record activity directly in the STN and found a pattern of brain activity closely associated with the patterns they observed in the mPFC.

"The STN has greater activity with greater
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Contact: David Orenstein
david_orenstein@brown.edu
401-863-1862
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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