Journal of Neurology

, Volume 259, Issue 1, pp 77–82 | Cite as

Temporal discrimination thresholds in adult-onset primary torsion dystonia: an analysis by task type and by dystonia phenotype

  • D. BradleyEmail author
  • R. Whelan
  • O. Kimmich
  • S. O’Riordan
  • N. Mulrooney
  • P. Brady
  • R. Walsh
  • R. B. Reilly
  • S. Hutchinson
  • F. Molloy
  • M. Hutchinson
Original Communication


Adult-onset primary torsion dystonia (AOPTD) is an autosomal dominant disorder with markedly reduced penetrance. Sensory abnormalities are present in AOPTD and also in unaffected relatives, possibly indicating non-manifesting gene carriage (acting as an endophenotype). The temporal discrimination threshold (TDT) is the shortest time interval at which two stimuli are detected to be asynchronous. We aimed to compare the sensitivity and specificity of three different TDT tasks (visual, tactile and mixed/visual-tactile). We also aimed to examine the sensitivity of TDTs in different AOPTD phenotypes. To examine tasks, we tested TDT in 41 patients and 51 controls using visual (2 lights), tactile (non-painful electrical stimulation) and mixed (1 light, 1 electrical) stimuli. To investigate phenotypes, we examined 71 AOPTD patients (37 cervical dystonia, 14 writer’s cramp, 9 blepharospasm, 11 spasmodic dysphonia) and 8 musician’s dystonia patients. The upper limit of normal was defined as control mean +2.5 SD. In dystonia patients, the visual task detected abnormalities in 35/41 (85%), the tactile task in 35/41 (85%) and the mixed task in 26/41 (63%); the mixed task was less sensitive than the other two (p = 0.04). Specificity was 100% for the visual and tactile tasks. Abnormal TDTs were found in 36 of 37 (97.3%) cervical dystonia, 12 of 14 (85.7%) writer’s cramp, 8 of 9 (88.8%) blepharospasm, 10 of 11 (90.1%) spasmodic dysphonia patients and 5 of 8 (62.5%) musicians. The visual and tactile tasks were found to be more sensitive than the mixed task. Temporal discrimination threshold results were comparable across common adult-onset primary torsion dystonia phenotypes, with lower sensitivity in the musicians.


Dystonia Temporal discrimination threshold (TDT) Genetics Endophenotype 



This research was funded by Dystonia Ireland, a non-profit patient-support charity, 33 Larkfield Grove, Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6 W, Ireland (, and by the Health Research Board of Ireland, a state funding agency, 73 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2 ( None of the authors have any further financial disclosures to make under the headings of stock ownership in medically related fields, consultancies, advisory boards, partnerships, honoraria, grants, intellectual property rights, expert testimony, employment, contracts or royalties.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no disclosures or conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. Bradley
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • R. Whelan
    • 2
  • O. Kimmich
    • 1
  • S. O’Riordan
    • 1
  • N. Mulrooney
    • 1
  • P. Brady
    • 1
  • R. Walsh
    • 1
  • R. B. Reilly
    • 2
  • S. Hutchinson
    • 1
  • F. Molloy
    • 3
  • M. Hutchinson
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurologySt. Vincent’s University HospitalDublin 4Ireland
  2. 2.Trinity Centre for BioEngineeringTrinity CollegeDublinIreland
  3. 3.Department of Clinical NeurophysiologyBeaumont HospitalDublinIreland

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