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Clin Neurophysiol. 2012 Jan;123(1):65-70. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2011.04.027. Epub 2011 Nov 9.

The cerebellum in dystonia - help or hindrance?

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Sobell Department of Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, UCL Institute for Neurology, Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK.


Dystonia has historically been considered a disorder of the basal ganglia. This review aims to critically examine the evidence for a role of the cerebellum in the pathophysiology of dystonia. We compare and attempt to link the information available from both clinical and experimental studies; work detailing cerebellar connectivity in primates; data that suggests a role for the cerebellum in the genesis of dystonia in murine models; clinical observation in humans with structural lesions and heredodegenerative disorders of the cerebellum; and imaging studies of patients with dystonia. The typical electrophysiological findings in dystonia are the converse to those found in cerebellar lesions. However, certain subtypes of dystonia mirror cerebellar patterns of increased cortical inhibition. Furthermore, altered cerebellar function can be demonstrated in adult onset focal dystonia with impaired cerebellar inhibition of motor cortex and abnormal eyeblink classical conditioning. We propose that abnormal, likely compensatory activity of the cerebellum is an important factor within pathophysiological models of dystonia. Work in this exciting area has only just begun but it is likely that the cerebellum will have a key place within future models of dystonia.

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