Pallidal dysfunction drives a cerebellothalamic circuit into Parkinson tremor

R. Helmich, M. Janssen, W. Oyen, B. Bloem and I. Toni

Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behavior, Center for Cognitive Neuroimaging, Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands.
Feb, 2011



Parkinson disease (PD) is characterized by striatal dopamine depletion, which explains clinical symptoms such as bradykinesia and rigidity, but not resting tremor. Instead, resting tremor is associated with increased activity in a distinct cerebellothalamic circuit. To date, it remains unknown how the interplay between basal ganglia and the cerebellothalamic circuit can result in resting tremor.We studied 21 tremor-dominant PD patients, 23 nontremor PD patients, and 36 controls. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we measured functional connectivity between basal ganglia nuclei (globus pallidus internus [GPi], globus pallidus externus [GPe], putamen, caudate) and the cerebellothalamic circuit. Using electromyography during scanning, we measured tremor-related activity in the basal ganglia and cerebellothalamic circuit. We also quantified striatopallidal dopamine depletion using iodine-123-N-omega-fluoropropyl-2β-carbomethoxy-3β-(4-iodophenyl)tropane [[I-123]FP-CIT] single photon emission computed tomography.Pallidal (but not striatal) dopamine depletion correlated with clinical tremor severity. The GPi, GPe, and putamen were transiently activated at the onset of tremor episodes, whereas activity in the cerebellothalamic circuit cofluctuated with tremor amplitude. The GPi and putamen of tremor-dominant PD patients had increased functional connectivity with the cerebellothalamic circuit, which was relegated through the motor cortex.Resting tremor may result from a pathological interaction between the basal ganglia and the cerebellothalamic circuit. The cerebellothalamic circuit, which controls tremor amplitude, appears to be driven into tremor generation when receiving transient signals from the dopamine-depleted basal ganglia. This may explain why basal ganglia dysfunction is required for developing resting tremor, although a cerebellothalamic circuit produces it. Our model also clarifies why neurosurgical interventions targeted at either the basal ganglia or the cerebellothalamic circuit can both suppress tremor.