Focal dystonia in Musicians

General description

Focal dystonia in musicians is a central focus of our clinical research. Musicians' dystonia is a task-specific movement disorder which manifests itself as a loss of voluntary motor control in extensively trained movements. In many cases, the disorder terminates the careers of affected musicians. Approximately 1 % of all professional musicians are affected. Until today, the pathophysiology of the disorder is unclear. Neuroimaging studies point at dysfunctional (or maladaptive) neuroplasticity as being involved in the etiology. In contrast to healthy musicians, musicians with hand dystonia showed a fusion of the digital representations in the somatosensory cortex.(Elbert et al., 1998; Altenmüller, 2003). Since skilled motor actions are necessarily bound to intact sensorimotor feedback loops, it is possible that the loss of motor control in musician’s dystonia might be induced by the aforementioned alterations. At present, however, it cannot be excluded that the observed fusion of the digital representations may alternatively be a consequence of musician’s dystonia.

At present, the outpatient clinic of the Institute offers medical care for more than 400 musicians suffering from focal dystonia. Treatment options include therapy with Botulinumtoxin (Schuele et al., 2005), other pharmaceutical approaches and retraining therapies. Current research projects aim at improving the therapies and further elucidating the neurobiological causes of this disorder.

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    Last modified: 2015-12-09

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