Public Release: 

Brain activity alternates while stepping

Understanding how brain activity changes throughout the stepping cycle could improve treatment of movement disorders

Society for Neuroscience

Human steps are associated with neural activity that alternates between the left and right sides of the brain, finds a study of Parkinson's disease patients published in JNeurosci. The research recommends future investigations address whether alternating deep brain stimulation accordingly may improve gait in movement disorders.

Walking problems reduce quality of life for people with Parkinson's disease. Medication or continuous deep brain stimulation are used to alleviate these symptoms, but some patients do not respond to these treatments.

To better understand how brain activity changes throughout the stepping cycle, Petra Fischer, Huiling Tan and colleagues studied Parkinson's patients who have received deep brain stimulation surgery. This enabled the researchers to record brain activity from electrodes implanted in the subthalamic nucleus (STN) while participants stepped in place along with a cartoon man in a video. The researchers found that activity in the 20-30 Hz (beta) range alternated between the left and right STN when the opposite foot touched the ground and the other foot was to be raised. The introduction of a metronome synchronized to the cartoon steps improved participants' accuracy and enhanced their STN beta activity accordingly.

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Article: Alternating modulation of subthalamic nucleus beta oscillations during stepping
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3596-17.2018
Corresponding authors: Petra Fischer, petra.fischer@ndcn.ox.ac.uk and Huiling Tan, huiling.tan@ndcn.ox.ac.uk (University of Oxford, UK)

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

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