The pathophysiology of dystonia has been best studied in patients with focal hand dystonia. A loss of inhibitory function has been demonstrated at spinal, brainstem and cortical levels. Many cortical circuits seem to be involved. One consequence of the loss of inhibition is a failure of surround inhibition, and this appears to directly lead to overflow and unwanted muscle spasms. There are mild sensory abnormalities and deficits in sensorimotor integration; these also might be explained by a loss of inhibition. Increasing inhibition may be therapeutic. A possible hypothesis is that there is a genetic loss of inhibitory interneurons in dystonia and that this deficit is a substrate on which other factors can act to produce dystonia.
Dystonia is a functionally disabling movement disorder characterized by abnormal movements and postures. Although substantial recent progress has been made in identifying genetic factors, the pathophysiology of the disease remains a mystery. A provocative suggestion gaining broader acceptance is that some aspect of neural plasticity may be abnormal. There is also evidence that, at least in some forms of dystonia, sensorimotor “use” may be a contributing factor. Most empirical evidence of abnormal plasticity in dystonia comes from measures of sensorimotor cortical organization and physiology. However, the basal ganglia also play a critical role in sensorimotor function. Furthermore, the basal ganglia are prominently implicated in traditional models of dystonia, are the primary targets of stereotactic neurosurgical interventions, and provide a neural substrate for sensorimotor learning influenced by neuromodulators. Our working hypothesis is that abnormal plasticity in the basal ganglia is a critical link between the etiology and pathophysiology of dystonia. In this review we set up the background for this hypothesis by integrating a large body of disparate indirect evidence that dystonia may involve abnormalities in synaptic plasticity in the striatum. After reviewing evidence implicating the striatum in dystonia, we focus on the influence of two neuromodulatory systems: dopamine and acetylcholine. For both of these neuromodulators, we first describe the evidence for abnormalities in dystonia and then the means by which it may influence striatal synaptic plasticity. Collectively, the evidence suggests that many different forms of dystonia may involve abnormal plasticity in the striatum. An improved understanding of these altered plastic processes would help inform our understanding of the pathophysiology of dystonia, and, given the role of the striatum in sensorimotor learning, provide a principled basis for designing therapies aimed at the dynamic processes linking etiology to pathophysiology of the disease.
Striatum; synaptic plasticity; long-term potentiation; long-term depression; dopamine; acetylcholine
Focal dystonias are dystonias that affect one part of the body, and are sometimes task-specific. Brain imaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation techniques have been valuable in defining the pathophysiology of dystonias in general, and are particularly amenable to studying focal dystonias. Over the past few years, several common themes have emerged in the imaging literature, and this review summarizes these findings and suggests some ways in which these distinct themes might all point to one common systems-level mechanism for dystonia. These themes include (1) the role of premotor regions in focal dystonia, (2) the role of the sensory system and sensorimotor integration in focal dystonia, (3) the role of decreased inhibition/increased excitation in focal dystonia, and (4) the role of brain imaging in evaluating and guiding treatment of focal dystonias. The data across these themes, together with the features of dystonia itself, are consistent with a hypothesis that all dystonias reflect excessive output of postural control/stabilization systems in the brain, and that the mechanisms for dystonia reflect amplification of an existing functional system, rather than recruitment of the wrong motor programs. Imaging is currently being used to test treatment effectiveness, and to visually guide treatment of dystonia, such as placement of deep brain stimulation electrodes. In the future, it is hoped that imaging may be used to individualize treatments across behavioral, pharmacologic, and surgical domains, thus optimizing both the speed and effectiveness of treatment for any given individual with focal dystonia.
Dystonia; fMRI; DTI; PET; TMS; MEG; posture; basal ganglia; premotor; cerebellum; botulinum toxin; DBS.
Task-specific dystonias are primary focal dystonias characterized by excessive muscle contractions producing abnormal postures during selective motor activities that often involve highly skilled, repetitive movements. Historically these peculiar postures were considered psychogenic but have now been classified as forms of dystonia. Writer’s cramp is the most commonly identified task-specific dystonia and has features typical of this group of disorders. Symptoms may begin with lack of dexterity during performance of a specific motor task with increasingly abnormal posturing of the involved body part as motor activity continues. Initially, the dystonia may manifest only during the performance of the inciting task, but as the condition progresses it may also occur during other activities or even at rest. Neurological exam is usually unremarkable except for the dystonia-related abnormalities. Although the precise pathophysiology remains unclear, increasing evidence suggests reduced inhibition at different levels of the sensorimotor system. Symptomatic treatment options include oral medications, botulinum toxin injections, neurosurgical procedures, and adaptive strategies. Prognosis may vary depending upon body part involved and specific type of task affected. Further research may reveal new insights into the etiology, pathophysiology, natural history, and improved treatment of these conditions.
dystonia; task-specific dystonia; writer’s cramp; musician’s cramp; embouchure dystonia; pathophysiology; primary focal dystonia; functional neuroimaging; review; focal hand dystonia; laryngeal dystonia; golfer’s yips; botulinum toxin
Musicians’ dystonia is a task-specific and painless loss of motor control in a previously well-executed task. It is increasingly recognized in the medical and musical community. Recent advances in neuroimaging, transcranial magnetic stimulation and novel techniques in electroencephalography have shed light on its underlying pathophysiology. To date, a deranged cortical plasticity leading to abnormal sensorimotor integration, combined with reduced inhibition across several levels of the motor pathway are likely mechanisms.This paper reviews the various phenomenology of musician’s dystonia across keyboard, string, brass, flute and drum players. Treatment is often challenging. Medical therapies like botulinum toxin injection and rehabilitation method with sensorimotor training offer symptomatic relief and return to baseline performance to some musicians.
Botulinum toxin; cortical plasticity; dystonia; musician; rehabilitation; trihexyphenidyl.
The neurobiological basis of psychogenic movement disorders remains poorly understood and the management of these conditions difficult. Functional neuroimaging studies have provided some insight into the pathophysiology of disorders implicating particularly the prefrontal cortex, but there are no studies on psychogenic dystonia, and comparisons with findings in organic counterparts are rare. To understand the pathophysiology of these disorders better, we compared the similarities and differences in functional neuroimaging of patients with psychogenic dystonia and genetically determined dystonia, and tested hypotheses on the role of the prefrontal cortex in functional neurological disorders. Patients with psychogenic (n = 6) or organic (n = 5, DYT1 gene mutation positive) dystonia of the right leg, and matched healthy control subjects (n = 6) underwent positron emission tomography of regional cerebral blood flow. Participants were studied during rest, during fixed posturing of the right leg and during paced ankle movements. Continuous surface electromyography and footplate manometry monitored task performance. Averaging regional cerebral blood flow across all tasks, the organic dystonia group showed abnormal increases in the primary motor cortex and thalamus compared with controls, with decreases in the cerebellum. In contrast, the psychogenic dystonia group showed the opposite pattern, with abnormally increased blood flow in the cerebellum and basal ganglia, with decreases in the primary motor cortex. Comparing organic dystonia with psychogenic dystonia revealed significantly greater regional blood flow in the primary motor cortex, whereas psychogenic dystonia was associated with significantly greater blood flow in the cerebellum and basal ganglia (all P < 0.05, family-wise whole-brain corrected). Group × task interactions were also examined. During movement, compared with rest, there was abnormal activation in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that was common to both organic and psychogenic dystonia groups (compared with control subjects, P < 0.05, family-wise small-volume correction). These data show a cortical–subcortical differentiation between organic and psychogenic dystonia in terms of regional blood flow, both at rest and during active motor tasks. The pathological prefrontal cortical activation was confirmed in, but was not specific to, psychogenic dystonia. This suggests that psychogenic and organic dystonia have different cortical and subcortical pathophysiology, while a derangement in mechanisms of motor attention may be a feature of both conditions.
psychogenic movement disorder; fixed dystonia; DYT1 gene; functional imaging; motor; cerebellum; basal ganglia; dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; attention
The aetiology of idiopathic scoliosis (IS) remains unknown; however, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that the spine deformity could be the expression of a subclinical nervous system disorder. A defective sensory input or an anomalous sensorimotor integration may lead to an abnormal postural tone and therefore the development of a spine deformity. Inhibition of the motor cortico-cortical excitability is abnormal in dystonia. Therefore, the study of cortico-cortical inhibition may shed some insight into the dystonia hypothesis regarding the pathophysiology of IS. Paired pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation was used to study cortico-cortical inhibition and facilitation in nine adolescents with IS, five teenagers with congenital scoliosis (CS) and eight healthy age-matched controls. The effect of a previous conditioning stimulus (80% intensity of resting motor threshold) on the amplitude of the motor-evoked potential induced by the test stimulus (120% of resting motor threshold) was examined at various interstimulus intervals (ISIs) in both abductor pollicis brevis muscles. The results of healthy adolescents and those with CS showed a marked inhibitory effect of the conditioning stimulus on the response to the test stimulus at interstimulus intervals shorter than 6 ms. These findings do not differ from those reported for normal adults. However, children with IS revealed an abnormally reduced cortico-cortical inhibition at the short ISIs. Cortico-cortical inhibition was practically normal on the side of the scoliotic convexity while it was significantly reduced on the side of the scoliotic concavity. In conclusion, these findings support the hypothesis that a dystonic dysfunction underlies in IS. Asymmetrical cortical hyperexcitability may play an important role in the pathogenesis of IS and represents an objective neurophysiological finding that could be used clinically.
Adolescent idiopathic scoliosis; Dystonia; Cortico-cortical inhibition; Cortical hyperexcitability; Transcranial magnetic stimulation
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) to the internal globus pallidus is an effective treatment for primary dystonia. The optimal clinical effect often occurs only weeks to months after starting stimulation. To better understand the underlying electrophysiological changes in this period we assessed longitudinally two pathophysiological markers of dystonia in patients prior to and in the early treatment period (1,3,6 months) after DBS-surgery.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation was used to track changes in short latency intracortical inhibition (SICI), a measure of excitability of GABAA-ergic corticocortical connections and long-term potentiation-like synaptic plasticity (as a response to paired associative stimulation, PAS). DBS remained ON for the duration of the study.
Prior to surgery, inhibition was reduced and plasticity increased in patients compared to healthy controls. Following surgery and commencement of DBS, SICI increased towards normal levels over the following months with the same monotonic time course as the patients' clinical benefit. In contrast, synaptic plasticity changed rapidly following a non-monotonic time course: it was absent early (1 month) after surgery, and then over the following months increased towards levels observed in healthy individuals.
We postulate that before surgery pre-existing high levels of plasticity form strong memories of dystonic movement patterns. When DBS is turned ON, it disrupts abnormal basal ganglia signals resulting in the absent response to PAS at one month. Clinical benefit is delayed because engrams of abnormal movement persist and take time to normalise. Our observations suggest that plasticity may be a driver of long term therapeutic effects of DBS in dystonia.
dystonia; deep brain stimulation; plasticity; longitudinal; human; excitability; mechanism
Primary dystonia is characterized by abnormal, involuntary twisting and turning movements that reflect impaired motor system function. The dystonic brain seems normal, in that it contains no overt lesions or evidence of neurodegeneration, but functional brain imaging has uncovered abnormalities involving the cortex, striatum and cerebellum, and diffusion tensor imaging suggests the presence of microstructural defects in white matter tracts of the cerebellothalamocortical circuit. Clinical electrophysiological studies show that the dystonic CNS exhibits hyperactive plasticity—perhaps related to deficient inhibitory neurotransmission—in a range of brain structures, as well as the spinal cord. Dystonia is, therefore, best conceptualized as a motor circuit disorder, rather than an abnormalcy of a particular brain structure. None of the aforementioned abnormalities can be strictly causal, as they are not limited to regions of the CNS subserving clinically affected body parts, and are found in seemingly healthy patients with dystonia-related mutations. The study of dystonia-related genes will, hopefully, help researchers to unravel the chain of events from molecular to cellular to system abnormalities. DYT1 mutations, for example, cause abnormalities within the endoplasmic reticulum–nuclear envelope endomembrane system. Other dystonia-related gene products traffic through the endoplasmic reticulum, suggesting a potential cell biological theme underlying primary dystonia.
Dystonia is a neurological disorder characterized by sustained or repetitive involuntary muscle contractions and abnormal postures. In the present article, we will introduce our recent electrophysiological studies in hyperkinetic transgenic mice generated as a model of DYT1 dystonia and in a human cervical dystonia patient, and discuss the pathophysiology of dystonia on the basis of these electrophysiological findings. Recording of neuronal activity in the awake state of DYT1 dystonia model mice revealed reduced spontaneous activity with bursts and pauses in both internal (GPi) and external (GPe) segments of the globus pallidus. Electrical stimulation of the primary motor cortex evoked responses composed of excitation and subsequent long-lasting inhibition, the latter of which was never observed in normal mice. In addition, somatotopic arrangements were disorganized in the GPi and GPe of dystonia model mice. In a human cervical dystonia patient, electrical stimulation of the primary motor cortex evoked similar long-lasting inhibition in the GPi and GPe. Thus, reduced GPi output may cause increased thalamic and cortical activity, resulting in the involuntary movements observed in dystonia.
dystonia; globus pallidus; extracellular recording; stereotactic surgery; movement disorders
To clarify the rationale for using rTMS of dorsal premotor cortex (PMd) to treat dystonia, we examined how the motor system reacts to an inhibitory form of rTMS applied to the PMd in healthy subjects and in a group of patients with focal hand dystonia and DYT1 gene carriers. Continuous theta burst transcranial magnetic stimulation (cTBS) with 300 and 600 pulses (cTBS300 and cTBS600) was applied to PMd and its after-effects were quantified by measuring the amplitude of MEPs evoked by single pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) over the primary motor cortex (M1), short interval intracortical inhibition/facilitation (SICI/ICF) within M1, the third phase of spinal reciprocal inhibition (RI) and writing tests. In addition, in DYT1 gene carriers, the effects of cTBS300 over M1 and PMd on MEPs were studied in separate experiments. In healthy subjects cTBS300 and cTBS600 over PMd suppressed MEPs for 30min or more and cTBS600 decreased SICI and RI. In contrast, neither form of cTBS over PMd had any significant effect on MEPs, while cTBS600 increased effectiveness of SICI and RI and improved writing in patients with writer's cramp. NMDYT1 had a normal response to cTBS300 over left PMd. We suggest that the reduced PMd to M1 interaction in dystonic patients is likely to be due to reduced excitability of PMd-M1 connections. The possible therapeutic effects of premotor rTMS may therefore involve indirect effects of PMd on SICI and RI, which this study has shown can be normalised by cTBS.
Premotor; rTMS; dystonia; theta burst; TBS
Dystonia is a neurological disorder associated with twisting motions and abnormal postures, which compromise normal movements and can be both painful and debilitating. It can affect a single body part (focal), several contiguous regions (segmental), or the entire body (generalized), and can arise as a result of numerous causes, both genetic and acquired. Despite the diversity of causes and manifestations, shared clinical features suggest that common mechanisms of pathogenesis may underlie many dystonias.
This review identifies shared themes in etiologically-diverse dystonias on several biological levels. At the cellular level, abnormalities in the dopaminergic system, mitochondrial function, and calcium regulation are discussed. At the anatomical level, the roles of the basal ganglia and the cerebellum in dystonia are described. Global central nervous system dysfunction, with regard to aberrant neuronal plasticity, inhibition, and sensorimotor integration is also discussed. Using clinical data and data from animal models, this article seeks to highlight shared pathways that may be critical in understanding mechanisms and identifying novel therapeutic strategies in dystonia.
Identifying shared features of pathogenesis can provide insight into the biological processes that underlie etiologically-diverse dystonias, and can suggest novel targets for therapeutic intervention that may be effective in a broad group of affected individuals.
dystonia; dopamine; mitochondria; calcium; basal ganglia; cerebellum; plasticity
Primary dystonia has traditionally been viewed as a basal ganglia disorder, but recent studies suggest that the cerebellum plays a crucial role in the disease. Primary dystonia is associated with several genotypes. Among those, DYT1 and DYT6 are inherited in autosomal dominant fashion with reduced penetrance. Extensive structural and functional imaging studies have been performed on manifesting and non-manifesting carriers of these mutations. The results suggest that primary dystonia can be viewed as a neurodevelopmental circuit disorder, involving the cortico-striato-pallido-thalamo-cortical and cerebello-thalamo-cortical pathways. Anatomical disruption of the cerebellar outflow is found in non-manifesting and manifesting mutation carriers, and a second downstream disruption in thalamo-cortical projections appears clinically protective in non-manifesting carriers. The microstructural deficits in cerebellar outflow are linked to an abnormally elevated sensorimotor network (NMRP) in dystonia patients. Abnormal expression of this network is reduced by successful treatment with deep brain stimulation.
dystonia; DYT1; DYT6; brain networks; motor activation; imaging marker; neurodevelopmental; positron emission tomography
Dystonia is a hyperkinetic movement disorder characterized by involuntary, repetitive twisting movements. The anatomical structures and pathways implicated in its pathogenesis and their relationships to the neurophysiological paradigms of abnormal surround inhibition, maladaptive plasticity, and impaired sensorimotor integration remain unclear.
We review the use of high-resolution structural brain imaging using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) techniques for evaluating brain changes in primary torsion dystonia and their relationships to the pathophysiology of this disorder.
A PubMed search was conducted to identify relevant literature.
VBM and DTI studies produced somewhat conflicting results across different forms of primary dystonia and reported increases, decreases, or both in gray matter volume and white matter integrity. However, despite the discrepancies, these studies are consistent in revealing brain abnormalities in dystonia that extend beyond the basal ganglia and involve the sensorimotor cortex and cerebellum.
Although limited to date, structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies combined with functional brain imaging and neurophysiological modalities begin to establish structural-functional relationships at different levels of the abnormal basal ganglia, cortical, and cerebellar networks and provide clues into the pathophysiological mechanisms that underlie primary dystonia. Cross-disciplinary studies are needed for further investigations of the interplay between structural-functional brain abnormalities and environmental and genetic risk factors in dystonia patients.
Primary dystonia; voxel-based morphometry; diffusion tensor imaging; MRI
Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is characterized by pain and disturbed blood flow, temperature regulation and motor control. Approximately 25% of cases develop fixed dystonia. The origin of this movement disorder is poorly understood, although recent insights suggest involvement of disturbed force feedback. Assessment of sensorimotor integration may provide insight into the pathophysiology of fixed dystonia. Sensory weighting is the process of integrating and weighting sensory feedback channels in the central nervous system to improve the state estimate. It was hypothesized that patients with CRPS-related dystonia bias sensory weighting of force and position toward position due to the unreliability of force feedback. The current study provides experimental evidence for dysfunctional sensory integration in fixed dystonia, showing that CRPS-patients with fixed dystonia weight force and position feedback differently than controls do. The study shows reduced force feedback weights in CRPS-patients with fixed dystonia, making it the first to demonstrate disturbed integration of force feedback in fixed dystonia, an important step towards understanding the pathophysiology of fixed dystonia.
The pathophysiology of dystonia is still poorly understood. We used diffusion tensor imaging to screen for white matter abnormalities in regions between the basal ganglia and the thalamus in cervical and hand dystonia patients. All patients exhibited an abnormal hemispheric asymmetry in a focal region between the pallidum and the thalamus. This asymmetry was absent 4 weeks after the same patients were treated with intramuscular botulinum toxin injections. These findings represent a new systems-level abnormality in dystonia, which may lead to new insights about the pathophysiology of movement disorders. More generally, these findings demonstrate central nervous system changes following peripheral reductions in muscle activity. This raises the possibility that we have observed activity-dependent white matter plasticity in the adult human brain.
basal ganglia; botulinum toxin; diffusion imaging; dystonia; plasticity; white matter
This study is a retrospective analysis of thalamic neuronal and electromyogram activities between subjects with organic dystonia and a subject with psychogenic dystonia, in whom a thalamotomy was carried out before a diagnosis psychogenic dystonia was made.
The electromyogram signal to noise ratio in the lowest frequency band (<0.76Hz, dystonia frequency – DF) in the electromyogram was not significantly different by diagnosis or muscle (Table 1). The coherence at dystonia frequency for wrist flexors X biceps electromyograms was significantly higher in organic dystonia, while the phase was not apparently different from zero for either diagnosis.
In a thalamic pallidal relay nucleus (ventral oral posterior), neuronal firing rates were not apparently different between psychogenic and organic dystonia. The neuronal signal to noise ratio in ventral oral posterior was significantly higher in organic dystonia than in psychogenic dystonia, while both were greater than in controls with chronic pain. Spike X electromyogram coherence was not apparently different between psychogenic and organic dystonia. The proportion of thalamic cells responding to joint movements was higher in the cerebellar relay nucleus (ventral intermediate) of psychogenic dystonia than organic dystonia.
These results suggest that some features, such as firing rates and thalamic reorganization, are similar in psychogenic and organic dystonia. Other features differ, such as the coherence between the electromyograms from different muscles, and the thalamic neuronal signal to noise ratio, which may reflect pathophysiological factors in organic dystonia.
Psychogenic Dystonia; Organic Dystonia; Human thalamus; Neuronal activity; Plasticity; Dystonia related activity
Dystonia is a neurological disorder characterized by sustained or repetitive involuntary muscle contractions and abnormal postures. To understand the pathophysiology of dystonia, neurophysiological analyses were performed on hyperkinetic transgenic mice generated as a model of DYT1 dystonia. Abnormal muscle activity, such as co-activation of agonist and antagonist muscles and sustained muscle activation, was frequently observed in these mice. Recording of neuronal activity in awake state revealed reduced spontaneous activity with bursts and pauses in both the external and internal segments of the globus pallidus. Motor cortical stimulation evoked responses composed of excitation and subsequent long-lasting inhibition in both pallidal segments, which were never observed in the normal mice. In addition, the somatotopic arrangements in both pallidal segments were disorganized. Long-lasting inhibition induced by cortical inputs in the internal pallidal segment may disinhibit thalamic and cortical activity, resulting in the motor hyperactivity observed in the transgenic mice.
dystonia; transgenic mouse model; extracellular recording; globus pallidus; movement disorders; basal ganglia
Adult-onset primary lower limb dystonia (AOPLLD) has been reported as an early sign of Parkinson’s disease (PD) or Parkinson-plus syndrome in case series. No prior systematic analysis has assessed clinical clues predicting later development of PD or Parkinson-plus syndrome.
We identified patients with AOPLLD from medical records. We excluded patients who had not been diagnosed by a neurologist, and who had a pre-existing diagnosis of PD, psychogenic, or secondary dystonia. Records were subdivided into those who later developed PD or Parkinson-plus disorders and those who did not. The following clinical characteristics were compared between the two groups: dystonia onset age, type of dystonia, levodopa response, anticholinergic response, and family history of Parkinsonism or tremor.
Twenty-two AOPLLD patients were identified: 77% female; the median dystonia onset age was 53 years. Eight (37%) developed Parkinson’s disease; 2 (9%) developed corticobasal syndrome. Twelve patients (54%) did not develop Parkinsonism after a median follow-up period of 1.5 years. There was a significant difference in leg dystonia levodopa response between the two groups (p = 0.02).
In patients with AOPLLD, leg dystonia with levodopa response is associated with the future development of PD.
Dystonia; Parkinson’s disease; leg dystonia; levodopa
Over the last 25 years, clinical neurophysiology has made many advances for the understanding, diagnosis and even treatment for different movement disorders. Transcranial magnetic stimulation has been the biggest technical advance. Progress in pathophysiology includes improved knowledge about bradykinesia in Parkinson’s disease, loss of inhibition and increased plasticity in dystonia, abnormal startle in hyperekplexia, and various features of psychogenic movement disorders that can aid diagnosis. Studies have been done looking at the use of non-invasive brain stimulation for therapy, but effects are generally small.
transcranial magnetic stimulation; EEG; EMG; Parkinson’s disease; Dystonia
Artificial induction of plasticity by paired associative stimulation (PAS) in healthy subjects (HV) demonstrates Hebbian-like plasticity in selected inhibitory networks as well as excitatory ones. In a group of 17 patients with focal hand dystonia and a group of 19 HV, we evaluated how PAS and the learning of a simple motor task influence the circuits supporting long interval intracortical inhibition (LICI, reflecting activity of GABAB interneurons) and long latency afferent inhibition (LAI, reflecting activity of somatosensory inputs to the motor cortex).
In HV, PAS and motor learning induced LTP-like plasticity of excitatory networks and a lasting decrease of LAI and LICI in the motor representation of the targeted or trained muscle. The better the motor performance, the larger was the decrease of LAI. Although motor performance in the patient group was similar to that of the control group, LAI did not decrease during the motor learning as it did in the control group. In contrast, LICI was normally modulated. In patients the results after PAS did not match those obtained after motor learning: LAI was paradoxically increased and LICI did not exhibit any change.
In the normal situation, decreased excitability in inhibitory circuits after induction of LTP-like plasticity may help to shape the cortical maps according to the new sensorimotor task.
In patients, the abnormal or absent modulation of afferent and intracortical long-interval inhibition might indicate maladaptive plasticity that possibly contributes to the difficulty that they have to learn a new sensorimotor task.“
motor learning; dystonia; transcranial magnetic stimulation; GABA; plasticity
Dystonia is a brain disorder characterized by sustained involuntary muscle contractions. It is typically inherited as an autosomal dominant trait with incomplete penetrance. While lacking clear degenerative neuropathology, primary dystonia is thought to involve microstructural and functional changes in neuronal circuitry. In the current study, we used magnetic resonance (MR) diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) and probabilistic tractography to identify the specific circuit abnormalities that underlie clinical penetrance in carriers of genetic mutations for this disorder. This approach revealed reduced integrity of cerebello-thalamo-cortical (CbTC) fiber tracts, likely developmental in origin, in both manifesting and clinically non-manifesting dystonia mutation carriers. In these subjects, reductions in cerebello-thalamic connectivity correlated with increased motor activation responses, consistent with loss of inhibition at the cortical level. Non-manifesting mutation carriers were distinguished by an additional area of fiber tract disruption situated distally along the thalamo-cortical segment of the pathway, in tandem with the proximal cerebellar outflow abnormality. In individual gene carriers, clinical penetrance was determined by the difference in connectivity measured at these two sites. Overall, these findings point to a novel mechanism to explain differences in clinical expression in carriers of genes for brain disease.
dystonia; connectivity; imaging; genetics; development; cerebral blood flow
Intracortical inhibition of the motor cortex was investigated
using a paired pulse magnetic stimulation method in 14 patients with
chorea caused by various aetiologies (six patients with Huntington's disease, one with chorea acanthocytosis, a patient with systemic lupus
erythematosus with a vascular lesion in the caudate, three with senile
chorea and three with chorea of unknown aetiology). The time course and
amount of inhibition was the same in the patients as in normal
subjects, suggesting that the inhibitory mechanisms of the motor cortex
studied with this method are intact in chorea. This is in striking
contrast with the abnormal inhibition seen in patients with
Parkinson's disease or focal hand dystonia, or those with a lesion in
the putamen or globus pallidus. It is concluded that the
pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for chorea are different from
those producing other involuntary movements.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation has been used in a double pulse paradigm to investigate the excitability of intrinsic motor cortical circuits in 15 patients with focal task specific dystonia of the right hand and a group of eight age matched controls. The left hemisphere was examined in five patients; in the remainder, both hemispheres were tested. There was no significant difference in stimulation threshold between patients and controls nor between the left and right hemispheres in the patients. There was a significant decrease in early corticocortical suppression when comparing stimulation of the left hemisphere in the patients and controls at interstimulus intervals of 1-15 ms (P < 0.01). There was no difference in the amount of suppression in the right and left hemispheres of the patients. It is concluded that in focal task specific dystonia there is shift in the balance between excitation and inhibition in local circuits of the motor cortex which leads to a net decrease in the amount of short latency suppression. These changes reflect disturbed basal ganglia input to the motor cortex. Reduced excitability of cortical inhibitory circuits may be one factor which contributes to the excessive and inappropriate muscle contraction which occurs during fine motor tasks in patients with focal dystonia.
A fundamental feature underlying many movement disorders is increased variability in the motor response. Despite abnormalities of grip force control in people with dystonia, it is not clear whether dystonia is also associated with increased variability in force output and whether force variability in dystonia is affected by the presence or absence of visual feedback.
To examine force variability in 16 patients with writer's cramp and 16 matched controls.
The variability of force output at the wrist under conditions of both vision and no vision was examined. The underlying frequency structure of the force signal was also compared across groups. Participants produced isometric wrist flexion to targets at 25% and 50% of their maximum voluntary contraction strength under conditions of both vision and no vision.
Similar levels of force variability were observed in patients with dystonia and controls at the lower force levels, but patients with dystonia were less variable in their force output than controls at the higher force level. This reduction in variability in people with dystonia at 50% maximum voluntary contraction was not affected by vision. Although a similar dominant frequency in force output was observed in people with dystonia and controls, a reduced variability in the group with dystonia at the higher force level was due to reduced power in the 0–4‐Hz frequency bin.
The first evidence of a movement disorder with reduced variability is provided. The findings are compatible with a model of dystonia, which includes reduced cortical activation in response to sensory input from the periphery and reduced flexibility in motor output.