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Unified neural field theory of brain dynamics underlying oscillations in Parkinson's disease and generalized epilepsies.


The mechanisms underlying pathologically synchronized neural oscillations in Parkinson's disease (PD) and generalized epilepsies are explored in parallel via a physiologically-based neural field model of the corticothalamic-basal ganglia (CTBG) system. The basal ganglia (BG) are approximated as a single effective population and their roles in the modulation of oscillatory dynamics of the corticothalamic (CT) system and vice versa are analyzed. In addition to normal EEG rhythms, enhanced activity around 4 Hz and 20 Hz exists in the model, consistent with the characteristic frequencies observed in PD. These rhythms result from resonances in loops formed between the BG and CT populations, analogous to those that underlie epileptic oscillations in a previous CT model, and which are still present in the combined CTBG system. Dopamine depletion is argued to weaken the dampening of these loop resonances in PD, and network connections then explain the significant coherence observed between BG, thalamic, and cortical population activity around 4-8 Hz and 20 Hz. Parallels between the afferent and efferent connection sites of the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) and BG predict low dopamine to correspond to a reduced likelihood of tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures, which agrees with experimental findings. Furthermore, the model predicts an increased likelihood of absence (petit mal) seizure resulting from pathologically low dopamine levels in accordance with experimental observations. Suppression of absence seizure activity is demonstrated when afferent and efferent BG connections to the CT system are strengthened, which is consistent with other CTBG modeling studies. The BG are demonstrated to have a suppressive effect on activity of the CTBG system near tonic-clonic seizure states, which provides insight into the reported efficacy of current treatments in BG circuits. Sleep states of the TRN are also found to suppress pathological PD activity in accordance with observations. Overall, the findings demonstrate strong parallels between coherent oscillations in generalized epilepsies and PD, and provide insights into possible comorbidities.