Temporal discrimination: Mechanisms and relevance to adult-onset dystonia

Antonella Conte, Eavan M. McGovern, Shruti Narasimham, Rebecca Beck, Owen Killian, Sean O'Riordan, Richard B. Reilly, Michael Hutchinson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Temporal discrimination is the ability to determine that two sequential sensory stimuli are separated in time. For any individual, the temporal discrimination threshold (TDT) is the minimum interval at which paired sequential stimuli are perceived as being asynchronous; this can be assessed, with high test-retest and inter-rater reliability, using a simple psychophysical test. Temporal discrimination is disordered in a number of basal ganglia diseases including adult-onset dystonia, of which the two most common phenotypes are cervical dystonia and blepharospasm. The causes of adult-onset focal dystonia are unknown; genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors are relevant. Abnormal TDTs in adult-onset dystonia are associated with structural and neurophysiological changes considered to reflect defective inhibitory interneuronal processing within a network which includes the superior colliculus, basal ganglia, and primary somatosensory cortex. It is hypothesized that abnormal temporal discrimination is a mediational endophenotype and, when present in unaffected relatives of patients with adult-onset dystonia, indicates non-manifesting gene carriage. Using the mediational endophenotype concept, etiological factors in adult-onset dystonia may be examined including (i) the role of environmental exposures in disease penetrance and expression; (ii) sexual dimorphism in sex ratios at age of onset; (iii) the pathogenesis of non-motor symptoms of adult-onset dystonia; and (iv) subcortical mechanisms in disease pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number625
JournalFrontiers in Neurology
Issue numberNOV
Publication statusPublished - Nov 28 2017


  • Adult-onset focal dystonia
  • Blepharospasm
  • Cervical dystonia
  • Endophenotype
  • Superior colliculus
  • Temporal discrimination threshold

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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