Spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is a task-specific focal dystonia of unknown pathophysiology, characterized by involuntary spasms in the laryngeal muscles during speaking. Our aim was to identify symptom-specific functional brain activation abnormalities in adductor spasmodic dysphonia (ADSD) and abductor spasmodic dysphonia (ABSD). Both SD groups showed increased activation extent in the primary sensorimotor cortex, insula, and superior temporal gyrus during symptomatic and asymptomatic tasks and decreased activation extent in the basal ganglia, thalamus, and cerebellum during asymptomatic tasks. Increased activation intensity in SD patients was found only in the primary somatosensory cortex during symptomatic voice production, which showed a tendency for correlation with ADSD symptoms. Both SD groups had lower correlation of activation intensities between the primary motor and sensory cortices and additional correlations between the basal ganglia, thalamus, and cerebellum during symptomatic and asymptomatic tasks. Compared with ADSD patients, ABSD patients had larger activation extent in the primary sensorimotor cortex and ventral thalamus during symptomatic task and in the inferior temporal cortex and cerebellum during symptomatic and asymptomatic voice production. The primary somatosensory cortex shows consistent abnormalities in activation extent, intensity, correlation with other brain regions, and symptom severity in SD patients and, therefore, may be involved in the pathophysiology of SD.
Spasmodic dysphonia (SD) is a primary focal dystonia of unknown pathophysiology, characterized by involuntary spasms in the laryngeal muscles during speech production. We examined two rare cases of postmortem brainstem tissue from SD patients compared to four controls. In the SD patients, small clusters of inflammation were found in the reticular formation surrounding solitary tract, spinal trigeminal, and ambigual nuclei, inferior olive, and pyramids. Mild neuronal degeneration and depigmentation were observed in the substantia nigra and locus coeruleus. No abnormal protein accumulations and no demyelination or axonal degeneration were found. These neuropathological findings may provide insights into the pathophysiology of SD.