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Brain. 2009 Mar;132(Pt 3):756-64. doi: 10.1093/brain/awn363. Epub 2009 Jan 29.

Case-control study of writer's cramp.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris F-75013, France.


Task-specific focal dystonias are thought to be due to a combination of individual vulnerability and environmental factors. There are no case-control studies of risk factors for writer's cramp. We undertook a case-control study of 104 consecutive patients and matched controls to identify risk factors for the condition. We collected detailed data on medical history and writing history as part of hobbies or occupation. Cases had a college or university degree more frequently than controls [OR = 4.6 (1.3-20.5), P = 0.01]. The risk of writer's cramp increased with the time spent writing each day (P-trend = 0.001) and was also associated with an abrupt increase in the writing time during the year before onset (OR = 5.7, 95% CI = 1.3-33.9, P = 0.02). Head trauma with loss of consciousness [OR = 3.5 (1.0-15.7), P = 0.05] and myopia [OR = 4.1 (1.7-12.0), P = 0.0009] were both associated with the condition but it was not significantly associated with peripheral trauma, left-handedness, constrained writing, writing in stressful situations or the choice of writing tool. The dose-effect relationship between writer's cramp and the time spent handwriting each day, and the additional burden of acute triggers such as an abrupt increase in the writing time in the year before onset, point to a disruptive phenomenon in predisposed subjects. Homeostatic regulation of cortical plasticity may be overwhelmed, resulting in dystonia.

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