Deep brain stimulation (DBS) has provided remarkable benefits for people with a variety of neurologic conditions. Stimulation of the ventral intermediate nucleus of the thalamus can dramatically relieve tremor associated with essential tremor or Parkinson disease (PD). Similarly, stimulation of the subthalamic nucleus or the internal segment of the globus pallidus can substantially reduce bradykinesia, rigidity, tremor, and gait difficulties in people with PD. Multiple groups are attempting to extend this mode of treatment to other conditions. Yet, the precise mechanism of action of DBS remains uncertain. Such studies have importance that extends beyond clinical therapeutics. Investigations of the mechanisms of action of DBS have the potential to clarify fundamental issues such as the functional anatomy of selected brain circuits and the relationship between activity in those circuits and behavior. Although we review relevant clinical issues, we emphasize the importance of current and future investigations on these topics.