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Brain Scans Reveal Secrets of 'Writer's Cramp'
Date:4/15/2009

Condition may arise from abnormalities in nerve fiber bundles, scientists say

WEDNESDAY, April 15 (HealthDay News) -- A team of French researchers has linked abnormalities in certain neural pathways of the brain to the debilitating muscle disorder known as "writer's cramp."

The finding could lead to a better understanding of the neurological basis for the resulting loss of muscle control and coordination that characterizes this difficult-to-diagnose disorder -- also known as "hand dystonia." The condition can render a patient unable to write or even maintain a functional grip when trying to perform a simple task.

"These results demonstrate the presence of abnormalities in [brain] fiber tracts," that are located in areas known to be involved with writer's cramp, said study author Dr. Stephane Lehericy, director of the Center for NeuroImaging Research at Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris.

Lehericy explained that although prior research had already linked writer's cramp to problematic alterations in the gray matter in certain brain regions, the current investigation identified problems with the white matter of certain nerve pathways in brain areas that are responsible for generating motor commands.

Such white matter, explained Lehericy, "contains fiber bundles that convey information from one brain region to another, as well as to the spinal cord."

Lehericy and his team reported the findings in the April issue of the Archives of Neurology.

To explore linkages between the disorder and the brain, the French team conducted high-tech diffusion-tenor magnetic resonance imaging (DTI) to scan for brain abnormalities among 26 right-handed writer's cramp patients and 26 right-handed healthy participants.

Among the writers cramp patients, the scans uncovered structural abnormalities in the white matter from the primary sensorimotor cortex region of the brain to below-cortex regio
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