Oscillatory coupling in writing and writer's cramp

J Physiol Paris. 2006 Jan;99(1):14-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jphysparis.2005.06.003. Epub 2005 Jul 18.


Writing is a highly skilled and overlearned movement. In patients suffering from writer's cramp, a focal task-induced dystonia, writing is impaired or even impossible due to involuntary muscle contractions and abnormal posture, which occur as soon as the person picks up a pen or within writing a few words. The underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of this movement disorder are not fully understood up to now. The aim of the present study was to unravel the oscillatory network underlying physiological writing in healthy subjects and dystonic writing in writer's cramp patients. Using whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) and the analysis tool dynamic imaging of coherent sources (DICS) we studied oscillatory neural coupling during writing in eleven healthy subjects and eight patients suffering from writer's cramp. Simultaneous recording of brain activity with MEG and activity of forearm and hand muscles with surface electromyography (EMG) was performed while subjects were writing for five minutes with their dominant right hand. Applying DICS sources of strongest cerebro-muscular coherence and cerebro-cerebral coherence during writing were identified, which consistently included six brain areas in both, the control subjects and the patients: contralateral and ipsilateral sensorimotor cortex, ipsilateral cerebellum, contralateral thalamus, contralateral premotor and posterior parietal cortex. Coherence between cortical sources and muscles appeared primarily in the frequency of writing movements (3-7 Hz) while coherence between cerebral sources occurred primarily around 10 Hz (8-13 Hz). Interestingly, consistent coupling between both sensorimotor cortices was observed in patients only, whereas coupling between ipsilateral cerebellum and the contralateral posterior parietal cortex was found in control subjects only. These results are consistent with the often described bilateral pathophysiology and impaired sensorimotor integration in writer's cramp patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Dystonic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Electromyography
  • Female
  • Handwriting*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Magnetoencephalography
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiopathology