Modification of cervical dystonia by selective sensory stimulation

J Neurol Sci. 1992 Jul;110(1-2):79-89. doi: 10.1016/0022-510x(92)90013-b.


Cervical dystonia is often refractory to all forms of therapy. Many patients, however, are able to transiently abolish their spasms following a specific gesture that presumably enhances sensory input. Such observations prompted us to develop a protocol to determine if various forms of sensory stimulation could modify the motor control patterns in cervical dystonia. Surface EMG recordings of multiple neck and trunk muscles were obtained in 11 consecutive cervical dystonia patients. Baseline patterns of voluntary and involuntary muscle activation were established during a series of motor and non-motor tasks. The tasks were repeated during the application of vibratory or electrical stimulation to select muscle groups or to cutaneous and mixed nerves. Analysis of the results was made on the basis of paper and computer recordings of the data. Sensory stimulation decreased involuntary muscle activity and reduced spasms in 5 subjects. However, objective or subjective improvement usually occurred only after specific stimuli were applied to specific anatomical sites. In these cases, the protocol identified the site at which a specific sensory stimulus could be applied to control the dystonia. We conclude that selective sensory stimulation can beneficially modify cervical dystonia in some patients. Such findings warrant further investigation of the use of sensory stimulation for control of cervical dystonia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Dystonia / physiopathology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / innervation
  • Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Neck Muscles / innervation
  • Neck Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology*
  • Torticollis / physiopathology*
  • Vibration