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Task-specific dystonia: pathophysiology and management
  1. Anna Sadnicka1,
  2. Panagiotis Kassavetis2,
  3. Isabel Pareés3,
  4. Anne Marthe Meppelink4,
  5. Katherine Butler5,
  6. Mark Edwards6
  1. 1Sobell Department for Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, UCL Institute of Neurology, London, UK
  2. 2Department of Neurology, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
  3. 3Department of Neurology, San Carlos Health Research Institute (IdISSC) Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  4. 4Department of Neurology, University Medical Centre Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
  5. 5Faculty of Health and Human Sciences, Plymouth University, Plymouth, UK
  6. 6Institute of Cardiovascular and Cell Sciences, St George's University, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Anna Sadnicka, Sobell Department for Motor Neuroscience and Movement Disorders, UCL Institute of Neurology, 33 Queen Square, London WC1N 3BG, UK; a.sadnicka{at}


Task-specific dystonia is a form of isolated focal dystonia with the peculiarity of being displayed only during performance of a specific skilled motor task. This distinctive feature makes task-specific dystonia a particularly mysterious and fascinating neurological condition. In this review, we cover phenomenology and its increasingly broad-spectrum risk factors for the disease, critically review pathophysiological theories and evaluate current therapeutic options. We conclude by highlighting the unique features of task-specific dystonia within the wider concept of dystonia. We emphasise the central contribution of environmental risk factors, and propose a model by which these triggers may impact on the motor control of skilled movement. By viewing task-specific dystonia through this new lens which considers the disorder a modifiable disorder of motor control, we are optimistic that research will yield novel therapeutic avenues for this highly motivated group of patients.


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