Abnormal central integration of a dual somatosensory input in dystonia. Evidence for sensory overflow

Michele Tinazzi, Alberto Priori, Laura Bertolasi, Emma Frasson, Francois Mauguière, Antonio Fiaschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Several observations suggest impaired central sensory integration in dystonia. We studied median and ulnar nerve somatosensory evoked potentials (SEPs) in 10 patients who had dystonia involving at least one upper limb (six had generalized, two had segmental and two had focal dystonia) and in 10 normal subjects. We compared the amplitude of spinal N13, brainstem P14, parietal N20 and P27 and frontal N30 SEPs obtained by stimulating the median and ulnar nerves simultaneously (MU), the amplitude value being obtained from the arithmetic sum of the SEPs elicited by stimulating the same nerves separately (M + U). Throughout the somatosensory system, the MU:(M + U) ratio indicates the interaction between afferent inputs from the two peripheral nerves. No significant difference was found between SEP amplitudes and latencies for individually stimulated median and ulnar nerves in dystonic patients and normal subjects, but recordings in patients yielded a significantly higher percentage ratio [MU:(M + U) x 100] for spinal N13 brainstem P14 and cortical N20, P27 and N30 components. The SEP ratio of central components obtained in response to stimulation of the digital nerves of the third and fifth fingers was also higher in patients than in controls but the difference did not reach a significant level. The possible contribution of subliminal activation was ruled out by recording the ratio of SEPs in six normal subjects during voluntary contraction. This voluntary contraction did not change the ratio of SEP suppression. These findings suggest that the inhibitory integration of afferent inputs, mainly proprioceptive inputs, coming from adjacent body parts is abnormal in dystonia. This inefficient integration, which is probably due to altered surrounding inhibition, could give rise to an abnormal motor output and might therefore contribute to the motor impairment present in dystonia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-50
Number of pages9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2000


  • Dystonia
  • Muscle afferent input
  • Somatosensory evoked potentials
  • Somatosensory system
  • Surrounding inhibition
  • Upper limb SEPs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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