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Task-dependent modulation of silent period duration in focal hand dystonia



Focal hand dystonia (FHD) is a movement disorder that is also associated with impaired sensory function and sensorimotor integration. The aim of this study was to assess the modulation of inhibitory function in the motor cortex during the performance of four motor tasks (isometric pinch grip, writing, texture discrimination, and a phasic control task) in 8 FHD and 8 control subjects. The affected hands of the FHD subjects and the dominant hands of the control subjects were tested. Inhibitory function was assessed using transcranial magnetic stimulation to evoke a silent period in the ongoing electromyographic activity of the target muscle (first dorsal interosseous). There was no difference between FHD subjects and control subjects in silent period duration, which was significantly longer during the phasic texture discrimination and phasic control task than during the isometric pinch or writing. This finding suggests that the phasic nature of the task may increase cortical inhibitory function, rather than the sensory discrimination task itself. The accuracy of texture discrimination was significantly lower in FHD subjects than in control subjects. Sensory discrimination tasks do not appear to directly modulate the inhibitory processes responsible for the duration of the silent period. © 2005 Movement Disorder Society