Contemporary functional neuroanatomy and pathophysiology of dystonia

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Dystonia is a disabling movement disorder characterized by abnormal postures or patterned and repetitive movements due to co-contraction of muscles in proximity to muscles desired for a certain movement. Important and well-established pathophysiological concepts are the impairment of sensorimotor integration, a loss of inhibitory control on several levels of the central nervous system and changes in synaptic plasticity. These mechanisms collectively contribute to an impairment of the gating function of the basal ganglia which results in an insufficient suppression of noisy activity and an excessive activation of cortical areas. In addition to this traditional view, a plethora of animal, genetic, imaging and electrophysiological studies highlight the role of the (1) cerebellum, (2) the cerebello-thalamic connection and (3) the functional interplay between basal ganglia and the cerebellum in the pathophysiology of dystonia. Another emerging topic is the better understanding of the microarchitecture of the striatum and its implications for dystonia. The striosomes are of particular interest as they likely control the dopamine release via inhibitory striato-nigral projections. Striosomal dysfunction has been implicated in hyperkinetic movement disorders including dystonia. This review will provide a comprehensive overview about the current understanding of the functional neuroanatomy and pathophysiology of dystonia and aims to move the traditional view of a ‘basal ganglia disorder’ to a network perspective with a dynamic interplay between cortex, basal ganglia, thalamus, brainstem and cerebellum.




Brüggemann, N. (2021, April 1). Contemporary functional neuroanatomy and pathophysiology of dystonia. Journal of Neural Transmission. Springer.

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