In this study, we investigated the effects of bilateral and unilateral deep brain stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus (STN-DBS) in PD patients on neural responses associated with two aspects of spoken language processing: semantics of action-related verbs and morphosyntactic processing.
Materials and methods
Using a passive unattended paradigm to present spoken linguistic stimuli, we recorded magnetoencephalographic (MEG) responses in three PD patients in four DBS conditions: left unilateral STN-DBS, right unilateral STN-DBS, bilateral STN-DBS, and no STN-DBS. To ensure that any observed effects of DBS on the neuromagnetic responses could be attributed to the linguistic context per se and were not merely induced by the electrical stimulation, we assessed the effects of STN-DBS on linguistic contrasts within each stimulation condition. Hence, we contrasted the processing of action vs. abstract verbs as well as the processing of correct vs. incorrect morphosyntactic inflections within each DBS condition.
The results revealed that, compared to the DBS-off state, both bilateral and right unilateral stimulation of the STN yielded significant dissociations in the processing of action and abstract verbs, with greater neuromagnetic responses for action verbs compared to abstract verbs. For morphosyntax processing, only left unilateral stimulation yielded significant dissociations (relative to the DBS-off state), with greater neuromagnetic responses to the incorrect inflections compared to the correct inflections.
The results reflect differential effects of unilateral and bilateral STN-DBS on neuromagnetic responses associated with the processing of spoken language. They suggest that different specific aspects of linguistic information processing in PD are affected differently by STN-DBS.