Psychosis from subthalamic nucleus deep brain stimulator lesion effect

Alik S. Widge, Pinky Agarwal, Monique Giroux, Sierra Farris, Ryan J. Kimmel, Adam O. Hebb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) in particular is highly effective in relieving symptoms of Parkinson's disease (PD). However, it can also have marked psychiatric side effects, including delirium, mania, and psychosis. The etiologies of those effects are not well-understood, and both surgeons and consulting psychiatrists are in need of treatment strategies. Case Description: Two patients with young onset of PD and without significant prior psychiatric problems presented for bilateral STN DBS when medications became ineffective. Both had uneventful operative courses but developed florid psychosis 1-2 weeks later, before stimulator activation. Neither showed signs of delirium, but both required hospitalization, and one required treatment with a first-generation antipsychotic drug. Use of that drug did not worsen PD symptoms, contrary to usual expectations. Conclusion: These cases describe a previously unreported post-DBS syndrome in which local tissue reaction to lead implantation produces psychosis even without electrical stimulation of subcortical circuits. The lesion effect also appears to have anti-Parkinsonian effects that may allow the safe use of otherwise contraindicated medications. These cases have implications for management of PD DBS patients postoperatively, and may also be relevant as DBS is further used in other brain regions to treat behavioral disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number106265
JournalSurgical Neurology International
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Parkinson's disease
  • neuromodulation
  • neurostimulation
  • psychosis
  • subthalamic nucleus


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