Sensory-motor integration in focal dystonia

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Abstract

Traditional definitions of focal dystonia point to its motor component, mainly affecting planning and execution of voluntary movements. However, focal dystonia is tightly linked also to sensory dysfunction. Accurate motor control requires an optimal processing of afferent inputs from different sensory systems, in particular visual and somatosensory (e.g., touch and proprioception). Several experimental studies indicate that sensory-motor integration – the process through which sensory information is used to plan, execute, and monitor movements – is impaired in focal dystonia. The neural degenerations associated with these alterations affect not only the basal ganglia–thalamic–frontal cortex loop, but also the parietal cortex and cerebellum. The present review outlines the experimental studies describing impaired sensory-motor integration in focal dystonia, establishes their relationship with changes in specific neural mechanisms, and provides new insight towards the implementation of novel intervention protocols. Based on the reviewed state-of-the-art evidence, the theoretical framework summarized in the present article will not only result in a better understanding of the pathophysiology of dystonia, but it will also lead to the development of new rehabilitation strategies.

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