Sensory trick phenomenon in cervical dystonia: a functional MRI study

Elisabetta Sarasso, Federica Agosta, Noemi Piramide, Francesca Bianchi, Carla Butera, Roberto Gatti, Stefano Amadio, Ubaldo Del Carro, Massimo Filippi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Sensory trick may relieve dystonic symptoms in patients with idiopathic cervical dystonia (CD). We investigated the patterns of brain functional MRI (fMRI) during resting state, sensory trick simulation and sensory trick imagination in CD patients both with and without an effective sensory trick. We recruited 17 CD patients and 15 healthy controls. Nine patients (CD-trick) had an effective sensory trick, while 8 patients (CD-no-trick) did not. Cervical range of motion validated instrument assessed dystonic posture and sensory trick effect. Participants underwent resting state fMRI, which was repeated by patients while executing the sensory trick. Patients also performed an fMRI task in which they were asked to imagine a sensory trick execution. CD-trick and CD-no-trick patients were comparable in terms of CD severity. Applying the sensory trick, CD-trick patients significantly improved dystonic posture. CD-no-trick patients showed an increased functional connectivity of sensorimotor network relative to controls during classic resting state fMRI. During resting state fMRI with sensory trick, CD-trick patients showed a decrease of sensorimotor network connectivity. During the sensory trick imagination fMRI task, CD-trick relative to CD-no-trick patients increased the recruitment of cerebellum bilaterally. This study suggests a hyper-connectivity of sensorimotor areas during resting state in CD-no-trick subjects. In CD-trick patients, the sensory trick performance was associated with a decreased connectivity of the sensorimotor network. The increased activation of cerebellum in CD-trick patients during the sensory trick imagination suggests a possible role of this area in modulating cortical activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1103-1115
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Cervical dystonia
  • Functional MRI
  • Imagination
  • Resting state
  • Sensory trick

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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