Primary Dystonia: Conceptualizing the Disorder through a Structural Brain Imaging Lens
Background: Dystonia is a hyperkinetic movement disorder of involuntary, twisting repetitive movements. The anatomical structures and pathways implicated in its pathogenesis as well as their relationship to the neurophysiological paradigm of abnormal surround inhibition, maladaptive plasticity and impaired sensorimotor integration remain not well delineated.
Objective: We review the use of high-resolution structural brain imaging using voxel-based morphometry (VBM) and diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) techniques for evaluation of brain changes in primary torsion dystonia and their relationships to the pathophysiology of this disorder.
Methods: A search in PubMed was conducted to identify the relevant literature.
Discussion: Structural imaging has enhanced our understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms of dystonia. In particular, VBM and DTI data have revealed microstructural disturbances in the basal ganglia, sensorimotor cortices and cerebellum along with aberrations in the cortico-striato-pallido-thalamic and cerebello-thalamo-cortical pathways. When combined with functional brain imaging and neurophysiological modalities, a structure-function relationship can be established in the dystonia brain network at the sensorimotor, plasticity, cortical disinhibition and cerebellar outflow connectivity levels. Structural imaging highlighted new anatomical substrates and, with a combined structural-functional approach, has offered new opportunities for investigation of the neurodevelopmental, environmental and/or genetic interplay in the brain networks of dystonia patients.