Connectome-Wide Phenotypical and Genotypical Associations in Focal Dystonia

J Neurosci. 2017 Aug 2;37(31):7438-7449. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0384-17.2017. Epub 2017 Jul 3.


Isolated focal dystonia is a debilitating movement disorder of unknown pathophysiology. Early studies in focal dystonias have pointed to segregated changes in brain activity and connectivity. Only recently has the notion that dystonia pathophysiology may lie in abnormalities of large-scale brain networks appeared in the literature. Here, we outline a novel concept of functional connectome-wide alterations that are linked to dystonia phenotype and genotype. Using a neural community detection strategy and graph theoretical analysis of functional MRI data in human patients with the laryngeal form of dystonia (LD) and healthy controls (both males and females), we identified an abnormally widespread hub formation in LD, which particularly affected the primary sensorimotor and parietal cortices and thalamus. Left thalamic regions formed a delineated functional community that highlighted differences in network topology between LD patients with and without family history of dystonia. Conversely, marked differences in the topological organization of parietal regions were found between phenotypically different forms of LD. The interface between sporadic genotype and adductor phenotype of LD yielded four functional communities that were primarily governed by intramodular hub regions. Conversely, the interface between familial genotype and abductor phenotype was associated with numerous long-range hub nodes and an abnormal integration of left thalamus and basal ganglia. Our findings provide the first comprehensive atlas of functional topology across different phenotypes and genotypes of focal dystonia. As such, this study constitutes an important step toward defining dystonia as a large-scale network disorder, understanding its causative pathophysiology, and identifying disorder-specific markers.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The architecture of the functional connectome in focal dystonia was analyzed in a large population of patients with laryngeal dystonia. Breaking with the empirical concept of dystonia as a basal ganglia disorder, we discovered large-scale alterations of neural communities that are significantly influenced by the disorder's clinical phenotype and genotype.

Keywords: dystonia; functional connectome; genotype-phenotype interactions; spasmodic dysphonia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Connectome / methods*
  • Dystonic Disorders / genetics
  • Dystonic Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Genetic Association Studies
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease / genetics
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Laryngeal Diseases / genetics
  • Laryngeal Diseases / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nerve Net / physiopathology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Phenotype
  • Speech Disorders / genetics
  • Speech Disorders / physiopathology*