How many dystonias? Clinical evidence

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Literary reports on dystonia date back to post-Medieval times. Medical reports are instead more recent. We review here the early descriptions and the historical establishment of a consensus on the clinical phenomenology and the diagnostic features of dystonia syndromes. Lumping and splitting exercises have characterized this area of knowledge, and it remains largely unclear how many dystonia types we are to count. This review describes the history leading to recognize that focal dystonia syndromes are a coherent clinical set encompassing cranial dystonia (including blepharospasm), oromandibular dystonia, spasmodic torticollis, truncal dystonia, writer's cramp, and other occupational dystonias. Papers describing features of dystonia and diagnostic criteria are critically analyzed and put into historical perspective. Issues and inconsistencies in this lumping effort are discussed, and the currently unmet needs are critically reviewed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number18
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Issue numberFEB
Publication statusPublished - Feb 3 2017


  • Definition and concepts
  • Dystonia
  • History
  • Movement disorders
  • Phenomenology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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