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Abnormal Brain Circuits May Prevent Movement Disorder
Date:8/4/2009

sonance 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 make it hard to process sequential information. Nonetheless, mutation carriers have a characteristic circuit disorder involving a motor system that is revved up and idling at high speed, making it difficult to integrate the information needed to plan movements and to learn new motor skills. It was not suspected that these otherwise healthy individuals had such difficulties since doctors only saw those who presented with the uncontrollable movements.

While their brains show the same abnormal network, only approximately 30% of people who carry the mutated gene called DYT1 will develop the involuntary movements that can prevent them from living a normal life, according to Dr. Eidelberg.

The puzzle was why.

In the latest study, the new advances in diffusion imaging allowed them to see something for the first time. They saw that there were two places along the motor pathway that seemed to stop the flow of neural signals from one part of the circuit to the other. Those with only one lesion in the circuit developed the debilitating movements and those with two lesions did not. "There is something about this second lesion that is protective," the authors c
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