Corticospinal excitability during motor imagery of a simple tonic finger movement in patients with writer's cramp



Motor imagery (MI) is the mental rehearsal of a motor act without overt movement. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), we tested the effect of MI on corticospinal excitability in patients with writer's cramp. In 10 patients with writer's cramp and 10 healthy controls, we applied focal TMS over each primary motor area and recorded motor evoked potentials (MEPs) from contralateral hand and arm muscles while participants imagined a tonic abduction of the index finger contralateral to the stimulated hemisphere. In healthy controls and patients, the MEP amplitude in the relaxed first dorsal interosseus muscle (FDI) showed a muscle-specific increase during MI; however, the increase was less pronounced in patients than in healthy controls. In addition, in patients but not in controls, the MEP amplitude also increased in hand and forearm muscles not involved in the imagined movement. This abnormal spread of facilitation was observed in the affected and unaffected upper limb. MI of simple hand movements is less efficient and less focussed in patients with writer's cramp than it is in normal subjects. © 2005 Movement Disorder Society