Essential blepharospasm (EB) is classified as a form of focal dystonia characterized by involuntary spasms of the musculature of the upper face. The basic neurological process causing EB is not known. The purpose of this study was to investigate cerebral glucose metabolism in patients with EB whose symptoms were suppressed by an injection of botulinum-A toxin. Earlier studies were confounded by sensory feedback activities derived from dystonic symptom itself. Cerebral glucose metabolism was examined by positron emission tomography (PET) with (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) in 25 patients (8 men and 17 women; age 52.6 +/- 10.1 years) with EB. The patients were awake but with the spasms suppressed by an injection of botulinum-A toxin. Thirty-eight normal volunteers (14 men and 24 women; age 58.2 +/- 7.3 years) were examined as controls. The difference between the two groups was examined by statistical parametric mapping (SPM99). A significant increase in the glucose metabolism was detected in the thalamus and pons in the EB patients. Hyperactivity in the thalamus may be a key pathophysiological change common to EB and other types of focal dystonia. The activity of the striatum and cerebellum are likely to be sensory dependent.