An Argument in Favor of Deep Brain Stimulation for Uncommon Movement Disorders: The Case for N-of-1 Trials in Holmes Tremor

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Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is part of state-of-the-art treatment for medically refractory Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor or primary dystonia. However, there are multiple movement disorders that present after a static brain lesion and that are frequently refractory to medical treatment. Using Holmes tremor (HT) as an example, we discuss the effectiveness of currently available treatments and, performing simulations using a Markov Chain approach, propose that DBS with iterative parameter optimization is expected to be more effective than an approach based on sequential trials of pharmacological agents. Since, in DBS studies for HT, the thalamus is a frequently chosen target, using data from previous studies of lesion connectivity mapping in HT, we compared the connectivity of thalamic and non-thalamic targets with a proxy of the HT network, and found a significantly higher connectivity of thalamic DBS targets in HT. The understanding of brain networks provided by analysis of functional connectivity may thus provide an informed framework for proper surgical targeting of individual patients. Based on these findings, we argue that there is an ethical imperative to at least consider surgical options in patients with uncommon movement disorders, while simultaneously providing consistent information regarding the expected effectiveness and risks, even in a scenario of surgical-risk aversion. An approach based on n-of-1 DBS trials may ultimately significantly improve outcomes while informing on optimal therapeutic targets and parameter settings for HT and other disabling and rare movement disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Article number921523
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jun 2022


  • connectivity
  • deep brain stimulation
  • Holmes tremor
  • movement disorders
  • n-of-1 trials


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