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Keywords:

  • essential tremor;
  • balance control;
  • static posturography;
  • dual task;
  • cerebellar dysfunction

Abstract

Essential tremor (ET) is a common movement disorder causing an important functional disability. ET is generally regarded as a monosymptomatic disorder, but additional signs may be present. We analyzed postural sway in 19 patients with classic ET and in 19 sex- and age-matched normal controls (NC) to uncover possible abnormalities of balance control. Static posturography was performed with eyes open (EO) and closed during quiet stance and during performance of mental calculation or motor sequence of thumb opposition to the other fingers. No significant differences of center of foot pressure (COP) parameters were observed between patients and controls during quiet standing. Visual deprivation induced a similar worsening of postural sway in both groups. Concomitant performance of a cognitive or motor task did not affect COP area, whereas COP path was significantly modified by the cognitive task in both groups. In all EO conditions, the COP path was significantly lower in NC than in ET, but such offset was related only to the group of ET patients with head tremor. This study demonstrates that balance control is only minimally affected in ET, although patients with head involvement and longer disease duration tend to present a reduced postural stability. The “dual-task effect” is less important in ET than in Parkinson's disease patients. © 2005 Movement Disorder Society