Purposes: To determine whether somatosensory temporal discrimination will reliably detect subclinical sensory impairment in patients with various forms of primary focal dystonia.
Methods: We tested the somatosensory temporal discrimination threshold (STDT) in 82 outpatients affected by cranial, cervical, laryngeal and hand dystonia. Results were compared with those for 61 healthy subjects and 26 patients with hemifacial spasm, a non-dystonic disorder. The STDT was tested by delivering paired stimuli starting with an interstimulus interval of 0 msec followed by a progressively increasing interstimulus interval.
Results: STDT was abnormal in all the different forms of primary focal dystonias in all three body regions (eye, hand and neck), regardless of the distribution and severity of motor symptoms. Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis calculated in the three body regions yielded high diagnostic sensitivity and specificity for STDT abnormalities.
Conclusions: these results provide definitive evidence that STDT abnormalities are a generalized feature of patients with primary focal dystonias and are a valid tool for screening subclinical sensory abnormalities.