Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

The neurobiological basis of psychogenic movement disorders remains poorly understood and the management of these conditions difficult. Functional neuroimaging studies have provided some insight into the pathophysiology of disorders implicating particularly the prefrontal cortex, but there are no studies on psychogenic dystonia, and comparisons with findings in organic counterparts are rare. To understand the pathophysiology of these disorders better, we compared the similarities and differences in functional neuroimaging of patients with psychogenic dystonia and genetically determined dystonia, and tested hypotheses on the role of the prefrontal cortex in functional neurological disorders. Patients with psychogenic (n = 6) or organic (n = 5, DYT1 gene mutation positive) dystonia of the right leg, and matched healthy control subjects (n = 6) underwent positron emission tomography of regional cerebral blood flow. Participants were studied during rest, during fixed posturing of the right leg and during paced ankle movements. Continuous surface electromyography and footplate manometry monitored task performance. Averaging regional cerebral blood flow across all tasks, the organic dystonia group showed abnormal increases in the primary motor cortex and thalamus compared with controls, with decreases in the cerebellum. In contrast, the psychogenic dystonia group showed the opposite pattern, with abnormally increased blood flow in the cerebellum and basal ganglia, with decreases in the primary motor cortex. Comparing organic dystonia with psychogenic dystonia revealed significantly greater regional blood flow in the primary motor cortex, whereas psychogenic dystonia was associated with significantly greater blood flow in the cerebellum and basal ganglia (all P < 0.05, family-wise whole-brain corrected). Group × task interactions were also examined. During movement, compared with rest, there was abnormal activation in the right dorsolateral prefrontal cortex that was common to both organic and psychogenic dystonia groups (compared with control subjects, P < 0.05, family-wise small-volume correction). These data show a cortical-subcortical differentiation between organic and psychogenic dystonia in terms of regional blood flow, both at rest and during active motor tasks. The pathological prefrontal cortical activation was confirmed in, but was not specific to, psychogenic dystonia. This suggests that psychogenic and organic dystonia have different cortical and subcortical pathophysiology, while a derangement in mechanisms of motor attention may be a feature of both conditions.

Original publication

DOI

10.1093/brain/awt008

Type

Journal article

Journal

Brain

Publication Date

03/2013

Volume

136

Pages

770 - 781

Keywords

Adult, Brain, Cerebrovascular Circulation, Dystonic Disorders, Female, Functional Neuroimaging, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Positron-Emission Tomography, Psychomotor Performance