Thursday, December 11, 2008

Dominantly transmitted focal dystonia in families of patients with musician's cramp

Reference
Schmid, A., Jabusch, H.C., Altenmueller, E., Hagenah, J., Brueggemann, N., Hedrich, K., Saunders-Pullman, R., Bressman, S., Kramer, P.L., & Klein, C. (2006).
Dominantly transmitted focal dystonia in families of patients with musician's cramp.
Neurology 67(4), 691-693.

Summary
Conducted at Institute of Music Physiology and Musicians' Medicine in Hanover University of Music and Drama, Germany, this study looks up the family dystonic history of three patients with musician's dystonia.
Several members from each family report symptoms of various dystonic disorders: writer's cramp, handicraft dystonia, or musician's dystonia.
Through survey, interview, and neurological examinations, the researchers are trying to trace genetic predisposition towards dystonic disorders in family with dystonic members.

Review & Reflections
This is the last of my article reviews about focal dystonia. My motivation for looking into this topic is not purely academic, but mainly personal. A very close friend contracted focal dystonia in the past couple of years and we were able to pin it down only recently, thanks to feedback from other musician friends and resources offered by this course, Music and the Brain, at faculty of music, University of Toronto.
The majority of related research literature about focal dystonia originated in Germany over the past 15 years. Thanks to continuous development of brain imaging techology, the neurological manifestations of this practice-induced have become available for researchers to study and subsequently design behavioural-training treatments.
What interests me about this particular article is its age-old implication: chicken before the egg, or egg before the chicken. Are members of a dystonic family predisposed to contracting dystonic disorders because of their hereditary brain structures, or because of the similarity in their professional activities and personal behavioural patterns? If we want to look at the genetic, not behavioural side of this disorder, I wonder if it would be worth while to look into the brain imaging of children with dystonic parent(s). Are they born in the same way, or different before environment and habits shape their growth?
On a personal note, I have found it helpful to know what not to do, as well as what to do, after the onset of focal dystonic symptoms. We are creatures of habits and in the case when habits are causing trouble, it is good to know from where to start addressing the issue.
For more information about physiotherapy for focal dystonia, I shall cite the article below:
http://www.pnas.org/content/100/13/7942.full
Candia, V., Schafer, T., Taub, E., Rau, H., Altenmuller, E., Rockstroh B., Elbert T. (2002).
Sensory motor retuning: a behavioral treatment for focal hand dystonia of pianists and guitarists.
Arch. Phys. Med. Rehabil., 83, 1342-1348.

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