Dystonia has historically been considered a disorder of the basal ganglia, mainly affecting planning and execution of voluntary movements. This notion comes from the observation that most lesions responsible for secondary dystonia involve the basal ganglia. However, what emerges from recent research is that dystonia is linked to the dysfunction of a complex neural network that comprises basal ganglia-thalamic-frontal cortex, but also the inferior parietal cortex and the cerebellum. While dystonia is clearly a motor problem, it turned out that sensory aspects are also fundamental, especially those related to proprioception. We outline experimental evidence for proprioceptive dysfunction in focal dystonia from intrinsic sensory abnormalities to impaired sensorimotor integration, which is the process by which sensory information is used to plan and execute volitional movements. Particularly, we will focus on proprioceptive aspects of dystonia, including: (i) processing of vibratory input, (ii) temporal discrimination of two passive movements, (iii) multimodal integration of visual-tactile and proprioceptive inputs, and (iv) motor control in the absence of visual feedback. We suggest that these investigations contribute not only to a better understanding of dystonia pathophysiology, but also to develop rehabilitation strategies aimed at facilitating the processing of proprioceptive input.
Avanzino, L., & Fiorio, M. (2014). Proprioceptive Dysfunction in Focal Dystonia: From Experimental Evidence to Rehabilitation Strategies. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.01000