Regionalized thalamic activity has been implicated in language function, and yet the effect of thalamic deep brain stimulation (DBS) on language-related clinical outcomes is underexplored. The objective of this study was to determine if the location of stimulation within the thalamus correlates with changes in language-related neuropsychological outcomes following DBS for essential tremor.

Thirty patients with essential tremor underwent comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations before and after DBS surgery targeting the ventral intermediate nucleus of the thalamus. Changes in neuropsychological functions were evaluated. The relationships between language-related outcomes and stimulation location were assessed using both categorical and linear methods. Any significant results were further validated using linear discriminant analysis.

Most neuropsychological functions remained unchanged at the group level. However, outcome on a measure of verbal abstraction was significantly dependent on stimulation location along the anterior–posterior axis within the left ventral lateral thalamus, with anterior stimulation associated with reduced verbal abstraction performance. This result was supported by linear discriminant analysis, which showed that stimulation locations with improved and reduced verbal abstraction function were best separated by a vector nearly parallel to the anterior–posterior axis. No stimulation location dependence was found for verbal abstraction outcome in the right thalamus or for outcomes of other language functions in either hemisphere.

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