Alcohol responsiveness in laryngeal dystonia: a survey study

J Neurol. 2015 Jun;262(6):1548-56. doi: 10.1007/s00415-015-7751-2. Epub 2015 May 1.


Laryngeal dystonia (LD) is a task-specific focal dystonia of unknown pathophysiology affecting speech production. We examined the demographics of anecdotally reported alcohol use and its effects on LD symptoms using an online survey based on Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap™) and National Spasmodic Dysphonia Association's patient registry. From 641 participants, 531 were selected for data analysis, and 110 were excluded because of unconfirmed diagnosis. A total of 406 patients (76.5 %) had LD and 125 (23.5 %) had LD and voice tremor (LD/VT). The consumption of alcohol was reported by 374 LD (92.1 %) and 109 LD/VT (87.2 %) patients. Improvement of voice symptoms after alcohol ingestion was noted by 227 LD (55.9 % of all patients) and 73 LD/VT (58.4 %), which paralleled the improvement observed by patient's family and/or friends in 214 LD (57.2 %) and 69 LD/VT (63.3 %) patients. The benefits lasted 1-3 h in both groups with the maximum effect after 2 drinks in LD patients (p = 0.002), whereas LD/VT symptoms improved independent of the consumed amount (p = 0.48). Our data suggest that isolated dystonic symptoms, such as in LD, are responsive to alcohol intake and this responsiveness is not attributed to the presence of VT, which is known to have significant benefits from alcohol ingestion. Alcohol may modulate the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying abnormal neurotransmission of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in dystonia and as such provide new avenues for novel therapeutic options in these patients.

Trial registration: NCT01961297.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking*
  • Central Nervous System Depressants / therapeutic use*
  • Dysphonia / complications
  • Dysphonia / drug therapy*
  • Ethanol / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Diseases / complications
  • Laryngeal Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Online Systems
  • Time Factors


  • Central Nervous System Depressants
  • Ethanol

Associated data