Impaired modulation of motor cortex excitability by homonymous and heteronymous muscle afferents in focal hand dystonia



A decrease of heteronymous median nerve-evoked inhibition of corticospinal projections to forearm extensor muscles was reported in a group of 10 dystonic patients by Bertolasi and colleagues in 2003. Here we tested the excitability of corticomotoneuronal connections to both wrist extensor (ECR) and flexor (FCR) muscles after conditioning stimulation of median and also radial nerve at rest in a group of 25 patients with focal hand dystonia compared to 20 healthy subjects. We also investigated the effect of the wrist dystonic posture, either in flexion or in extension, on the afferent modulation of ECR and FCR motor evolved potentials (MEPs). The heteronymous (median-induced) but also homonymous (radial-induced) inhibitions (interstimuli intervals 13–21 ms) of ECR MEP size observed in healthy subjects were decreased in patients. In addition, homonymous (median-induced) facilitation of FCR MEP size was also decreased in patients while heteronymous inhibition (radial-induced) was not. Neither the involvement of the target muscle in the dystonic posture nor the origin of the afferent volley (from a dystonic muscle) influenced the degree of impairment of afferent modulation of the MEP. These findings support the view that a global abnormal somatosensory coupling in focal hand dystonia may contribute to an inadequate motor command to wrist muscles. © 2006 Movement Disorder Society