Hierarchical dynamic causal modeling of resting-state fMRI reveals longitudinal changes in effective connectivity in the motor system after thalamotomy for essential tremor

Hae Jeong Park, Chongwon Pae, Karl Friston, Changwon Jang, Adeel Razi, Peter Zeidman, Won Seok Chang, Jin Woo Chang

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Thalamotomy at the ventralis intermedius nucleus for essential tremor is known to cause changes in motor circuitry, but how a focal lesion leads to progressive changes in connectivity is not clear. To understand the mechanisms by which thalamotomy exerts enduring effects on motor circuitry, a quantitative analysis of directed or effective connectivity among motor-related areas is required. We characterized changes in effective connectivity of the motor system following thalamotomy using (spectral) dynamic causal modeling (spDCM) for resting-state fMRI. To differentiate long-lasting treatment effects from transient effects, and to identify symptom-related changes in effective connectivity, we subject longitudinal resting-state fMRI data to spDCM, acquired 1 day prior to, and 1 day, 7 days, and 3 months after thalamotomy using a non-cranium-opening MRI-guided focused ultrasound ablation technique. For the group-level (between subject) analysis of longitudinal (between-session) effects, we introduce a multilevel parametric empirical Bayes (PEB) analysis for spDCM. We found remarkably selective and consistent changes in effective connectivity from the ventrolateral nuclei and the supplementary motor area to the contralateral dentate nucleus after thalamotomy, which may be mediated via a polysynaptic thalamic-cortical-cerebellar motor loop. Crucially, changes in effective connectivity predicted changes in clinical motor-symptom scores after thalamotomy. This study speaks to the efficacy of thalamotomy in regulating the dentate nucleus in the context of treating essential tremor. Furthermore, it illustrates the utility of PEB for group-level analysis of dynamic causal modeling in quantifying longitudinal changes in effective connectivity; i.e., measuring long-term plasticity in human subjects non-invasively.

Original languageEnglish
Article number346
Number of pages9
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2017


  • Brain network
  • dynamic causal modeling
  • Effective connectivity
  • Essential tremor
  • Thalamotomy

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