Increased activation of frontal areas during arm movement in idiopathic torsion dystonia



Most positron emission tomography (PET) studies of regional cerebral function in idiopathic torsion dystonia (ITD) have failed to show abnormalities, but there have been few studies of the changes in regional cerebral blood flow (rCBF) that occur during movement in dystonia. Using PET, we have studied six patients with familial generalized ITD both at rest and while moving a joystick with the right hand. The patterns of CBF change obtained were compared with those in six age-matched control subjects. In the dystonia group, free selection of movement was associated with relative increases in rCBF above that observed in control subjects in the left premotor area, the supplementary motor area (SMA), the anterior cingulate cortex, and the left dorsolateral prefrontal area. Subcortical increases were observed within the cerebellum and the putamen. There was a relative decrease in flow through the contralateral primary sensorimotor cortex. These findings contrast with those reported in patients with Parkinson's disease undertaking the same task in which the activity in the SMA and putamen was decreased. We suggest that arm dystonia in ITD is associated with overactivity of the premotor areas, including the SMA, and that this results from release of the thalamus from the normal inhibitory influence of the globus pallidus internal segment. Other abnormalities of basal ganglia control of brain stem centers may be involved in axial dystonia.