Objective: To investigate whether psychophysical techniques assessing temporal discrimination could help in differentiating patients who have tremor associated with dystonia or essential tremor.
Methods: We tested somatosensory temporal discrimination thresholds (TDT) and temporal discrimination movement thresholds (TDMT) in 39 patients who had tremor associated with dystonia or essential tremor presenting with upper-limb tremor of comparable severity and compared their findings with those from a group of 25 sex- and age-matched healthy control subjects.
Results: TDT was higher in patients who had tremor associated with dystonia than in those with essential tremor and healthy controls (110.6 ± 31.3 vs 63.1 ± 15.2 vs 62.4 ± 9.2; p < 0.001). Conversely, TDMT was higher in patients with essential tremor than in those with tremor associated with dystonia and healthy controls (113.7 ± 14.7 vs 103.4 ± 11.3 vs 100.4 ± 4.2; p < 0.001). Combining the 2 tests in a pattern for essential tremor (abnormal TDMT/normal TDT) and tremor associated with dystonia (normal TDMT/abnormal TDT) yielded a positive predictive value (PPV) of 86.7% and a negative predictive value (NPV) of 70.8% for diagnosing essential tremor and a PPV of 100.0% and NPV of 74.1% for diagnosing tremor associated with dystonia.
Conclusions: TDT and TDMT testing should prove a useful tool for differentiating tremor associated with dystonia and essential tremor. Our findings imply that the pathophysiologic mechanisms underlying tremor associated with dystonia differ from those for essential tremor.