Focal dystonias are the most common forms of isolated dystonia; however, the etiopathophysiological signatures of disorder penetrance and clinical manifestation remain unclear. Using an imaging genetics approach, we investigated functional and structural representations of neural endophenotypes underlying the penetrance and manifestation of laryngeal dystonia in families, including 21 probands and 21 unaffected relatives, compared to 32 unrelated healthy controls. We further used a supervised machine-learning algorithm to predict the risk for dystonia development in susceptible individuals based on neural features of identified endophenotypes. We found that abnormalities in the prefrontal-parietal cortex, thalamus, and caudate nucleus were commonly shared between patients and their unaffected relatives, representing an intermediate endophenotype of laryngeal dystonia. Machine-learning classification of 95.2% of unaffected relatives together with patients rather than healthy controls substantiated these neural alterations as the endophenotypic marker of dystonia penetrance, independent of its symptomatology. Additional abnormalities in premotor-parietal-temporal cortical regions, caudate nucleus, and cerebellum were present only in patients but not their unaffected relatives, likely representing a secondary endophenotype of dystonia manifestation. Based on alterations in the parietal cortex and caudate nucleus, the machine-learning categorization of 28.6% of unaffected relative as patients indicated their increased lifetime risk for developing clinical manifestation of dystonia. The identified endophenotypic neural markers may be implemented for screening of at-risk individuals for dystonia development, selection of families for genetic studies of novel variants based on their risk for disease penetrance, or stratification of patients who would respond differently to a particular treatment in clinical trials.
Isolated dystonia is a neurological disorder of heterogeneous pathophysiology, which causes involuntary muscle contractions leading to abnormal movements and postures. Its diagnosis is remarkably challenging due to the absence of a biomarker or gold standard diagnostic test. This leads to a low agreement between clinicians, with up to 50% of cases being misdiagnosed and diagnostic delays extending up to 10.1 y. We developed a deep learning algorithmic platform, DystoniaNet, to automatically identify and validate a microstructural neural network biomarker for dystonia diagnosis from raw structural brain MRIs of 612 subjects, including 392 patients with three different forms of isolated focal dystonia and 220 healthy controls. DystoniaNet identified clusters in corpus callosum, anterior and posterior thalamic radiations, inferior fronto-occipital fasciculus, and inferior temporal and superior orbital gyri as the biomarker components. These regions are known to contribute to abnormal interhemispheric information transfer, heteromodal sensorimotor processing, and executive control of motor commands in dystonia pathophysiology. The DystoniaNet-based biomarker showed an overall accuracy of 98.8% in diagnosing dystonia, with a referral of 3.5% of cases due to diagnostic uncertainty. The diagnostic decision by DystoniaNet was computed in 0.36 s per subject. DystoniaNet significantly outperformed shallow machine-learning algorithms in benchmark comparisons, showing nearly a 20% increase in its diagnostic performance. Importantly, the microstructural neural network biomarker and its DystoniaNet platform showed substantial improvement over the current 34% agreement on dystonia diagnosis between clinicians. The translational potential of this biomarker is in its highly accurate, interpretable, and generalizable performance for enhanced clinical decision-making.
Codrin Lungu, Laurie Ozelius, David Standaert, Mark Hallett, Beth-Anne Sieber, Christine Swanson-Fisher, Brian D Berman, Nicole Calakos, Jennifer C Moore, Joel S Perlmutter, Sarah E Pirio Richardson, Rachel Saunders-Pullman, Laura Scheinfeldt, Nutan Sharma, Roy Sillitoe, Kristina Simonyan, Philip A Starr, Anna Taylor, Jerrold Vitek, and NINDS Workshop Research Priorities participants and organizers of the on in Dystonia. 2020. “Defining research priorities in dystonia.” Neurology.Abstract
OBJECTIVE: Dystonia is a complex movement disorder. Research progress has been difficult, particularly in developing widely effective therapies. This is a review of the current state of knowledge, research gaps, and proposed research priorities. METHODS: The NIH convened leaders in the field for a 2-day workshop. The participants addressed the natural history of the disease, the underlying etiology, the pathophysiology, relevant research technologies, research resources, and therapeutic approaches and attempted to prioritize dystonia research recommendations. RESULTS: The heterogeneity of dystonia poses challenges to research and therapy development. Much can be learned from specific genetic subtypes, and the disorder can be conceptualized along clinical, etiology, and pathophysiology axes. Advances in research technology and pooled resources can accelerate progress. Although etiologically based therapies would be optimal, a focus on circuit abnormalities can provide a convergent common target for symptomatic therapies across dystonia subtypes. The discussions have been integrated into a comprehensive review of all aspects of dystonia. CONCLUSION: Overall research priorities include the generation and integration of high-quality phenotypic and genotypic data, reproducing key features in cellular and animal models, both of basic cellular mechanisms and phenotypes, leveraging new research technologies, and targeting circuit-level dysfunction with therapeutic interventions. Collaboration is necessary both for collection of large data sets and integration of different research methods.
The emerging view of dystonia is that of a large-scale functional network disorder, in which the communication is disrupted between sensorimotor cortical areas, basal ganglia, thalamus, and cerebellum. The structural underpinnings of functional alterations in dystonia are, however, poorly understood. Notably, it is unclear whether structural changes form a larger-scale dystonic network or rather remain focal to isolated brain regions, merely underlying their functional abnormalities. Using diffusion-weighted imaging and graph theoretical analysis, we examined inter-regional white matter connectivity of the whole-brain structural network in two different forms of task-specific focal dystonia, writer's cramp and laryngeal dystonia, compared to healthy individuals. We show that, in addition to profoundly altered functional network in focal dystonia, its structural connectome is characterized by large-scale aberrations due to abnormal transfer of prefrontal and parietal nodes between neural communities and the reorganization of normal hub architecture, commonly involving the insula and superior frontal gyrus in patients compared to controls. Other prominent common changes involved the basal ganglia, parietal and cingulate cortical regions, whereas premotor and occipital abnormalities distinctly characterized the two forms of dystonia. We propose a revised pathophysiological model of focal dystonia as a disorder of both functional and structural connectomes, where dystonia form-specific abnormalities underlie the divergent mechanisms in the development of distinct clinical symptomatology. These findings may guide the development of novel therapeutic strategies directed at targeted neuromodulation of pathophysiological brain regions for the restoration of their structural and functional connectivity.
The vagus nerve is the 10th of the 12 pairs of cranial nerves and is a part of the parasympathetic nervous system. It originates in the medulla oblongata and is comprised of sensory and motor neurons that innervate the peripheral nervous system. The vagus nerve exits the central nervous system at the vagal ganglia and spreads to the rest of the body. Among other functions, the vagus nerve supplies the laryngopharynx and other structures in the neck via afferent and efferent nerve branches. These branches are composed of different fibers that have their origins in different vagal nuclei in the medulla and are responsible for phonation, gastrointestinal reflexes, swallowing, air passing, and cardiac function.
Neural processing of speech production has been traditionally attributed to the left hemisphere. However, it remains unclear if there are structural bases for speech functional lateralization and if these may be partially explained by sexual dimorphism of cortical morphology. We used a combination of high-resolution MRI and speech-production functional MRI to examine cortical thickness of brain regions involved in speech control in healthy males and females. We identified greater cortical thickness of the left Heschl’s gyrus in females compared to males. Additionally, rightward asymmetry of the supramarginal gyrus and leftward asymmetry of the precentral gyrus were found within both male and female groups. Sexual dimorphism of the Heschl’s gyrus may underlie known differences in auditory processing for speech production between males and females, whereas findings of asymmetries within cortical areas involved in speech motor execution and planning may contribute to the hemispheric localization of functional activity and connectivity of these regions within the speech production network. Our findings highlight the importance of consideration of sex as a biological variable in studies on neural correlates of speech control.
OBJECTIVES: To determine the directionality of regional interactions and influences of one region on another within the functionally abnormal sensorimotor network in isolated focal dystonia. METHODS: A total of 40 patients with spasmodic dysphonia with and without dystonic tremor of voice and 35 healthy controls participated in the study. Independent component analysis (ICA) of resting-state fMRI was used to identify 4 abnormally coupled brain regions within the functional sensorimotor network in all patients compared to controls. Follow-up spectral dynamic causal modeling (DCM) estimated regional effective connectivity between patients and controls and between patients with spasmodic dysphonia with and without dystonic tremor of voice to expand the understanding of symptomatologic variability associated with this disorder. RESULTS: ICA found abnormally reduced functional connectivity of the left inferior parietal cortex, putamen, and bilateral premotor cortex in all patients compared to controls, pointing to a largely overlapping pathophysiology of focal dystonia and dystonic tremor. DCM determined that the disruption of the sensorimotor network was both top-down, involving hyperexcitable parieto-putaminal influence, and interhemispheric, involving right-to-left hyperexcitable premotor coupling in all patients compared to controls. These regional alterations were associated with their abnormal self-inhibitory function when comparing patients with spasmodic dysphonia patients with and without dystonic tremor of voice. CONCLUSIONS: Abnormal hyperexcitability of premotor-parietal-putaminal circuitry may be explained by altered information transfer between these regions due to underlying deficient connectivity. Identification of brain regions involved in processing of sensorimotor information in preparation for movement execution suggests that complex network disruption is staged well before the dystonic behavior is produced by the primary motor cortex.
INTRODUCTION: Spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is an isolated focal dystonia characterized by laryngeal spasms during voluntary voice production. Environmental factors have been assumed to play a role in SD pathophysiology; however, the exact extrinsic risk factors and their association with neural alterations remain unknown. METHODS: A total of 186 SD patients and 85 healthy controls completed a structured 177-question survey, consisting of questions on general biographical information, medical history, symptomatology of dystonia. Data were imputed in a stepwise regression model to identify extrinsic risk factors for SD. In addition, functional MRI data from a subset of this cohort were analyzed to determine brain activation abnormalities associated with the SD extrinsic risk. RESULTS: We found that (1) recurrent upper respiratory infections, gastroesophageal reflux, and neck trauma, all of which influence sensory feedback from the larynx, represent extrinsic risk factors, likely triggering the manifestation of SD symptoms, and (2) neural alterations in the regions necessary for sensorimotor preparation and integration are influenced by an extrinsic risk in susceptible individuals. CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide evidence for the extrinsic risk in SD development and demonstrate the link with alterations in the sensorimotor preparatory network that collectively contribute to the multifactorial pathophysiology of SD.
The basal ganglia are a complex subcortical structure that is principally involved in the selection and implementation of purposeful actions in response to external and internal cues. The basal ganglia set the pattern for facilitation of voluntary movements and simultaneous inhibition of competing or interfering movements. In addition, the basal ganglia are involved in the control of a wide variety of non-motor behaviors, spanning emotions, language, decision making, procedural learning, and working memory. This review presents a comparative overview of classic and contemporary models of basal ganglia organization and functional importance, including their increased integration with cortical and cerebellar structures.
Dystonia is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary, repetitive movements. Although the precise mechanisms of dystonia development remain unknown, the diversity of its clinical phenotypes is thought to be associated with multifactorial pathophysiology, which is linked not only to alterations of brain organization, but also environmental stressors and gene mutations. This chapter will present an overview of the pathophysiology of isolated dystonia through the lens of applications of major neuroimaging methodologies, with links to genetics and environmental factors that play a prominent role in symptom manifestation.
Oral medications for the treatment of dystonia are not established. Currently, symptoms of focal dystonia are managed with botulinum toxin injections into the affected muscles. However, the injection effects are short-lived and not beneficial for all patients. We recently reported significant clinical improvement of symptoms with novel investigational oral drug, sodium oxybate, in patients with the alcohol-responsive form of laryngeal focal dystonia. Understanding the mechanism of action of this promising oral agent holds a strong potential for the development of a scientific rationale for its use in dystonia. Therefore, to determine the neural markers of sodium oxybate effects, which may underlie dystonic symptom improvement, we examined brain activity during symptomatic speech production before and after drug intake in patients with laryngeal dystonia and compared to healthy subjects. We found that sodium oxybate significantly attenuated hyperfunctional activity of cerebellar, thalamic and primary/secondary sensorimotor cortical regions. Drug-induced symptom improvement was correlated with decreased-to-normal levels of activity in the right cerebellum. These findings suggest that sodium oxybate shows direct modulatory effects on disorder pathophysiology by acting upon abnormal neural activity within the dystonic network.
OBJECTIVE: Spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary spasms in the laryngeal muscles. It is thought to selectively affect speaking; other vocal behaviors remain intact. However, the patients' own perspective on their symptoms is largely missing, leading to partial understanding of the full spectrum of voice alterations in SD. METHODS: A cohort of 178 SD patients rated their symptoms on the visual analog scale based on the level of effort required for speaking, singing, shouting, whispering, crying, laughing, and yawning. Statistical differences between the effort for speaking and the effort for other vocal behaviors were assessed using nonparametric Wilcoxon rank-sum tests within the overall SD cohort as well as within different subgroups of SD. RESULTS: Speech production was found to be the most impaired behavior, ranking as the most effortful type of voice production in all SD patients. In addition, singing required nearly similar effort as speaking, ranking as the second most altered vocal behavior. Shouting showed a range of variability in its alterations, being especially difficult to produce for patients with adductor form, co-occurring voice tremor, late onset of disorder, and familial history of dystonia. Other vocal behaviors, such as crying, laughing, whispering, and yawning, were within the normal ranges across all SD patients. CONCLUSION: Our findings widen the symptomatology of SD, which has predominantly been focused on selective speech impairments. We suggest that a separation of SD symptoms is rooted in selective aberrations of the neural circuitry controlling learned but not innate vocal behaviors. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: 4. Laryngoscope, 2018.
OBJECTIVE: Our ability to speak is complex, and the role of the central nervous system in controlling speech production is often overlooked in the field of otolaryngology. In this brief review, we present an integrated overview of speech production with a focus on the role of central nervous system. The role of central control of voice production is then further discussed in relation to the potential pathophysiology of spasmodic dysphonia (SD). DATA SOURCES: Peer-review articles on central laryngeal control and SD were identified from PUBMED search. Selected articles were augmented with designated relevant publications. REVIEW METHODS: Publications that discussed central and peripheral nervous system control of voice production and the central pathophysiology of laryngeal dystonia were chosen. RESULTS: Our ability to speak is regulated by specialized complex mechanisms coordinated by high-level cortical signaling, brainstem reflexes, peripheral nerves, muscles, and mucosal actions. Recent studies suggest that SD results from a primary central disturbance associated with dysfunction at our highest levels of central voice control. The efficacy of botulinum toxin in treating SD may not be limited solely to its local effect on laryngeal muscles and also may modulate the disorder at the level of the central nervous system. CONCLUSION: Future therapeutic options that target the central nervous system may help modulate the underlying disorder in SD and allow clinicians to better understand the principal pathophysiology. LEVEL OF EVIDENCE: NA.Laryngoscope, 128:177-183, 2018.
The importance of insula in speech control is acknowledged but poorly understood, partly due to a variety of clinical symptoms resulting from insults to this structure. To clarify its structural organization within the speech network in healthy subjects, we used probabilistic diffusion tractography to examine insular connectivity with three cortical regions responsible for sound processing [Brodmann area (BA) 22], motor preparation (BA 44) and motor execution (laryngeal/orofacial primary motor cortex, BA 4). To assess insular reorganization in a speech disorder, we examined its structural connectivity in patients with spasmodic dysphonia (SD), a neurological condition that selectively affects speech production. We demonstrated structural segregation of insula into three non-overlapping regions, which receive distinct connections from BA 44 (anterior insula), BA 4 (mid-insula) and BA 22 (dorsal and posterior insula). There were no significant differences either in the number of streamlines connecting each insular subdivision to the cortical target or hemispheric lateralization of insular clusters and their projections between healthy subjects and SD patients. However, spatial distribution of the insular subdivisions connected to BA 4 and BA 44 was distinctly organized in healthy controls and SD patients, extending ventro-posteriorly in the former group and anterio-dorsally in the latter group. Our findings point to structural segregation of the insular sub-regions, which may be associated with the different aspects of sensorimotor and cognitive control of speech production. We suggest that distinct insular involvement may lead to different clinical manifestations when one or the other insular region and/or its connections undergo spatial reorganization.
Although the concept of left-hemispheric lateralization of neural processes during speech production has been known since the times of Broca, its physiological underpinnings still remain elusive. We sought to assess the modulatory influences of a major neurotransmitter, dopamine, on hemispheric lateralization during real-life speaking using a multimodal analysis of functional MRI, intracranial EEG recordings, and large-scale neural population simulations based on diffusion-weighted MRI. We demonstrate that speech-induced phasic dopamine release into the dorsal striatum and speech motor cortex exerts direct modulation of neuronal activity in these regions and drives left-hemispheric lateralization of speech production network. Dopamine-induced lateralization of functional activity and networks during speaking is not dependent on lateralization of structural nigro-striatal and nigro-motocortical pathways. Our findings provide the first mechanistic explanation for left-hemispheric lateralization of human speech that is due to left-lateralized dopaminergic modulation of brain activity and functional networks.
Despite the wealth of genetic information available, mechanisms underlying pathological effects of disease-associated mutations in components of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) signaling cascades remain elusive. In this study, we developed a scalable approach for the functional analysis of clinical variants in GPCR pathways along with a complete analytical framework. We applied the strategy to evaluate an extensive set of dystonia-causing mutations in G protein Gαolf. Our quantitative analysis revealed diverse mechanisms by which pathogenic variants disrupt GPCR signaling, leading to a mechanism-based classification of dystonia. In light of significant clinical heterogeneity, the mechanistic analysis of individual disease-associated variants permits tailoring personalized intervention strategies, which makes it superior to the current phenotype-based approach. We propose that the platform developed in this study can be universally applied to evaluate disease mechanisms for conditions associated with genetic variation in all components of GPCR signaling.