MANHASSET, NY -- Most people who carry a genetic mutation for a movement disorder called dystonia will never develop symptoms, a phenomenon that has puzzled scientists since the first genetic mutation was identified in the 1990's. Now, scientists at The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have figured out why these mutation carriers are protected from symptoms of the disorder they have an additional lesion that evens the score.
Dystonia is marked by uncontrolled movements, particularly twisting and abnormal postures. Studies have shown that muscles contract abnormally and patients can't stop the involuntary movements. The identification of a specific abnormality in people with the genetic mutation who never develop symptoms could eventually pave the way towards new treatments for dystonia patients. There are half a million people in the United States alone. The brains of people with inherited dystonia are normal at autopsy and the exact cause of their movement abnormality is unknown.
David Eidelberg, MD, the senior author of the study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, said that they used diffusion tensor imaging a type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that measures changes in the integrity of white matter pathways in the brain to study those with and without symptoms who carry the disease gene. There were 20 people in the study; 12 with symptoms and eight without. They also had a number of volunteers who agreed to brain scans who had no disease and no mutations in the gene for dystonia.
Dr. Eidelberg and his colleagues identified two discrete areas along the pathway that links the cerebellum to the motor cortex that together determine whether a mutation carrier will display clinical manifestations of the disease.
Their earlier work revealed that patients and non-patients with the disease gene have the same underlying functional brain abnormality, such as overactivity of motor circuits that mak
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North Shore-Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Health System