Motor learning deficits in cervical dystonia point to defective basal ganglia circuitry

Sebastian Loens, Julius Verrel, Vera Maria Herrmann, Amrei Kienzle, Elinor Tzvi, Anne Weissbach, Johanna Junker, Alexander Münchau, Tobias Bäumer*

*Corresponding author for this work


Dystonia is conceptualized as a network disorder involving basal ganglia, thalamus, sensorimotor cortex and the cerebellum. The cerebellum has been implicated in dystonia pathophysiology, but studies testing cerebellar function in dystonia patients have provided equivocal results. This study aimed to further elucidate motor network deficits in cervical dystonia with special interest in the role of the cerebellum. To this end we investigated motor learning tasks, that differ in their dependence on cerebellar and basal ganglia functioning. In 18 cervical dystonia patients and 18 age matched healthy controls we measured implicit motor sequence learning using a 12-item serial reaction time task mostly targeting basal ganglia circuitry and motor adaptation and eyeblink conditioning as markers of cerebellar functioning. ANOVA showed that motor sequence learning was overall impaired in cervical dystonia (p = 0.01). Moreover, unlike healthy controls, patients did not show a learning effect in the first part of the experiment. Visuomotor adaptation and eyeblink conditioning were normal. In conclusion, these data lend support to the notion that motor learning deficits in cervical dystonia relate to basal ganglia-thalamo-cortical loops rather than being a result of defective cerebellar circuitry.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7332
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)7332
Publication statusPublished - 01.04.2021


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