1. Neuroscience
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Human subthalamic nucleus activity during non-motor decision making

  1. Baltazar A Zavala
  2. Anthony I Jang
  3. Kareem A Zaghloul  Is a corresponding author
  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, United States
Research Article
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Cite this article as: eLife 2017;6:e31007 doi: 10.7554/eLife.31007


Recent studies have implicated the subthalamic nucleus (STN) in decisions that involve inhibiting movements. Many of the decisions that we make in our daily lives, however, do not involve any motor actions. We studied non-motor decision making by recording intraoperative STN and prefrontal cortex (PFC) electrophysiology as participants perform a novel task that required them to decide whether to encode items into working memory. During all encoding trials, beta band (15-30 Hz) activity decreased in the STN and PFC, and this decrease was progressively enhanced as more items were stored into working memory. Crucially, the STN and lateral PFC beta decrease was significantly attenuated during the trials in which participants were instructed not to encode the presented stimulus. These changes were associated with increase lateral PFC-STN coherence and altered STN neuronal spiking. Our results shed light on why states of altered basal ganglia activity disrupt both motor function and cognition.

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Baltazar A Zavala

    Surgical Neurology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bethesda, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  2. Anthony I Jang

    Surgical Neurology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bethesda, United States
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
  3. Kareem A Zaghloul

    Surgical Neurology Branch, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Bethesda, United States
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0001-8575-3578


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (Intramural Research Program)

  • Kareem A Zaghloul

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.


Human subjects: The study was conducted in accordance with an NIH IRB approved protocol (11-N-0211), and all participants gave their written informed consent to take part in the study. Participants received no financial compensation for their participation.

Reviewing Editor

  1. David Badre, Brown University, United States

Publication history

  1. Received: August 3, 2017
  2. Accepted: December 13, 2017
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: December 15, 2017 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: January 23, 2018 (version 2)


This is an open-access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.


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