Beyond verbal fluency: Investigating the long-term effects of bilateral subthalamic (STN) deep brain stimulation (DBS) on language function in two cases

Brooke M. Whelan*, Bruce E. Murdoch, Deborah G. Theodoros, Peter A. Silburn, Bruce Hall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Cognitive functioning has been described as largely impervious to chronic STN-DBS administered over 12-month periods. In relation to the domain of language, however, the effects of STN-DBS are yet to be thoroughly delineated. Verbal fluency tasks represent an almost exclusively applied index of linguistic proficiency relative to neuropsychological research within this population. Comprehensive investigations of the impact of STN-DBS on language function, however, have never been undertaken. The more precise elucidation of the role of the STN in the mediation of language processes, by way of assessments which probe language comprehension and production mechanisms, served as the primary focus of this research. Longitudinal analysis also afforded consideration of the way in which cognitive-linguistic circuits respond to STN-DBS over time. Bilateral STN-DBS primarily effected clinically reliable fluctuations (i.e., both improvements and declines) in performance in both subjects on tasks demanding cognitive-linguistic flexibility in the formulation and comprehension of complex language. Of particular note, both subjects demonstrated a cumulative increase in the proportion of reliable post-operative improvements achieved over time. The findings of this research lend support to models of subcortical participation in language which endorse a role for the STN, and suggest that bilateral STN-DBS may serve to enhance the proficiency of basal ganglia-thalamocortical linguistic circuits over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-102
Number of pages10
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2005
Externally publishedYes


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