Single-neuron analysis of human thalamus in patients with intention tremor and other clinical signs of cerebellar disease

Frederick Lenz, C. J. Jaeger, M. S. Seike, Y. C. Lin, S. G. Reich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Tremor that occurs as a result of a cerebellar lesion, cerebellar tremor, is characteristically an intention tremor. Thalamic activity may be related to cerebellar tremor because transmission of some cerebellar efferent signals occurs via the thalamus and cortex to the periphery. We have now studied thalamic neuronal activity in a cerebellar relay nucleus (ventral intermediate-Vim) and a pallidal relay nucleus (ventralis oral posterior-Vop) during thalamotomy in patients with intention tremor and other clinical signs of cerebellar disease (tremor patients). The activity of single neurons and the simultaneous electromyographic (EMG) activity of the contralateral upper extremity in tremor patients performing a pointing task were analyzed by spectral cross-correlation analysis. EMG spectra during intention tremor often showed peaks of activity in the tremor-frequency range (1.9-5.8 Hz). There were significant differences in thalamic neuronal activity between tremor patients and controls. Neurons in Vim and Vop had significantly lower firing rates in tremor patients than in patients undergoing thalamic surgery for pain (pain controls). Other studies have shown that inputs to Vim from the cerebellum are transmitted through excitatory connections. Therefore the present results suggest that tremor in these tremor patients is associated with deafferentation of the thalamus from cerebellar efferent pathways. The thalamic X EMG cross-correlation functions were studied for cells located in Vim and Vop. Neuronal and EMG activity were as likely to be significantly correlated for cells in Vim as for those in Vop. Cells in Vim were more likely to have a phase lag relative to EMG than were cells in Vop. In monkeys, cells in the cerebellar relay nucleus of the thalamus, corresponding to Vim, are reported to lead movement during active oscillations at the wrist. In view of these monkey studies, the present results suggest that cells in Vim are deafferented and have a phase lag relative to tremor that is not found in normal active oscillations. The difference in phase of thalamic spike X EMG activity between Vim and Vop may contribute to tremor because lesions of pallidum or Vop are reported to relieve cerebellar tremor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2084-2094
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)

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