Sensorimotor integration in movement disorders

Mov Disord. 2003 Mar;18(3):231-240. doi: 10.1002/mds.10327.


Although current knowledge attributes movement disorders to a dysfunction of the basal ganglia-motor cortex circuits, abnormalities in the peripheral afferent inputs or in their central processing may interfere with motor program execution. We review the abnormalities of sensorimotor integration described in the various types of movement disorders. Several observations, including those of parkinsonian patients' excessive reliance on ongoing visual information during movement tasks, suggest that proprioception is defective in Parkinson's disease (PD). The disturbance of proprioceptive regulation, possibly related to the occurrence of abnormal muscle-stretch reflexes, might be important for generating hypometric or bradykinetic movements. Studies with somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs), prepulse inhibition, and event-related potentials support the hypothesis of central abnormalities of sensorimotor integration in PD. In Huntington's disease (HD), changes in SEPs and long-latency stretch reflexes suggest that a defective gating of peripheral afferent input to the brain might impair sensorimotor integration in cortical motor areas, thus interfering with the processing of motor programs. Defective motor programming might contribute to some features of motor impairment in HD. Sensory symptoms are frequent in focal dystonia and sensory manipulation can modify the dystonic movements. In addition, specific sensory functions (kinaesthesia, spatial-temporal discrimination) can be impaired in patients with focal hand dystonia, thus leading to a "sensory overflow." Sensory input may be abnormal and trigger focal dystonia, or defective "gating" may cause an input-output mismatch in specific motor programs. Altogether, several observations strongly support the idea that sensorimotor integration is impaired in focal dystonia. Although elemental sensation is normal in patients with tics, tics can be associated with sensory phenomena. Some neurophysiological studies suggest that an altered "gating" mechanism also underlies the development of tics. This review underlines the importance of abnormal sensorimotor integration in the pathophysiology of movement disorders. Although the physiological mechanism remains unclear, the defect is of special clinical relevance in determining the development of focal dystonia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dystonia / physiopathology
  • Evoked Potentials, Motor
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory
  • Feedback / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Huntington Disease / physiopathology
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Movement Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Parkinson Disease / physiopathology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiopathology*
  • Tics / physiopathology