Objectives: Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is an innovative and effective treatment for patients with therapy-refractory obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD). DBS offers unique opportunities for personalized care, but no guidelines on how to choose effective and safe stimulation parameters in patients with OCD are available. Our group gained relevant practical knowledge on DBS optimization by treating more than 80 OCD patients since 2005, the world's largest cohort. The article's objective is to share this experience. Materials and Methods: We provide guiding principles for optimizing DBS stimulation parameters in OCD and discuss the neurobiological and clinical basis. Results: Adjustments in stimulation parameters are performed in a fixed order. First, electrode contact activation is determined by the position of the electrodes on postoperative imaging. Second, voltage and pulse width are increased stepwise, enlarging both the chance of symptom reduction and of inducing side effects. Clinical evaluation of adjustments in stimulation parameters needs to take into account: 1) the particular temporal sequence in which the various OCD symptoms and DBS side-effects change; 2) the lack of robust response predictors; 3) the limited sensitivity of the Yale-Brown Obsessive–Compulsive Scale to assess DBS-induced changes in OCD symptoms; and 4) a patient's fitness for additional cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). Conclusions: Decision-making in stimulation parameter optimization needs to be sensitive to the particular time-courses on which various symptoms and side effects change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-315
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Early online date2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Deep brain stimulation
  • neuromodulation
  • obsessive–compulsive disorder
  • optimization
  • stimulation parameters

Cite this