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Int J Neurosci. 2012 Feb;122(2):88-91. doi: 10.3109/00207454.2011.630544. Epub 2011 Nov 15.

Task-specific writing tremor: clinical phenotypes, progression, treatment outcomes, and proposed nomenclature.

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Department of Neurology, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Task-specific tremor diagnoses remain controversial. We evaluated 56 subjects seen with writing tremor. The diagnosis was made if there was a clear history of exclusive tremor while writing for at least 3 years before noticing tremor in any other scenario and the continued presence of writing tremor as the most prominent aspect of their tremor disorder on examination. The age of tremor onset was 47.2 ± 18.0 years (73.2% male). Ethnic backgrounds were Caucasian (68.4%), African (23.2%), Hispanic (5.2%), and Asian/Indian (3.3%), and 44% reported any tremor in a first degree relative. Writing tremor often progressed to other task-specific tremors or rest tremor but not to immediate postural tremor, as usually seen in essential tremor. The other tremor provoking scenarios were eating/drinking (14), brushing teeth/shaving/make-up (5), typing (2), suture removal (1), and drafting (1) and occurred a mean of 7.5 years after the onset of writing tremor. Fourteen developed a "rest" (true rest or crescendo) tremor but only 2 of these met clinical criteria for Parkinson's disease. Pharmacologic treatments of writing tremor, including with ethanol, were generally poor, whereas deep brain stimulation of the ventral intermediate (VIM) thalamus was successful. Compared with patients with "classic" essential tremor in our clinic, writing tremor patients were more likely African, more likely male, had an older age of onset, a lower likelihood of familial tremor, and were more refractory to tremor medications and ethanol. This supports segregation between task-specific tremor and essential tremor but does not support the specific diagnosis of "writing tremor" because many patients progress to tremor with other tasks.

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