The large-scale structural connectome of task-specific focal dystonia

Sandra Hanekamp, Kristina Simonyan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3253-3265
Number of pages13
JournalHuman Brain Mapping
Issue number12
StatePublished - 15 Aug 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • DWI
  • focal hand dystonia
  • laryngeal dystonia
  • motor control


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