Dystonia Medical Research Foundation Tackles Urgent Need for Movement Disorder Specialists
Clinical Fellowship Awards Train Outstanding Young Clinician-Scientists
Dystonia is a chronic, often disabling, brain disorder characterized by extreme, involuntary muscle contractions. These muscle contractions cause twisting, repetitive body movements and abnormal postures. In addition to treating dystonia patients, DMRF clinical fellows must dedicate a percentage of time to research. Dr. Mahajan's research project is entitled "Cerebellar Degeneration in Tremor-Dominant Cervical Dystonia: Clinical and Neuroimaging Cohort Study." Cervical dystonia is a focal dystonia characterized by involuntary movements and abnormal postures of the neck and head. Dr. Mahajan is using imaging and gait analysis in patients that have cervical dystonia with and without head tremor. The main hypothesis is that tremor-dominant cervical dystonia is a distinct subtype marked by greater dysfunction in the cerebellum compared to non-tremor cervical dystonia. Confirmation of this could inform treatment approaches and patient selection for future clinical trials.
"Few things are more important when facing dystonia than having access to a qualified doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment. The DMRF is committed to creating opportunities for young investigators to embark on a research career in dystonia," says Art Kessler, President of the DMRF. "There is an urgent need for additional movement disorder specialists, especially because funding trends in academic institutions severely limit the availability of fellowships for rare disorders like dystonia—making opportunities for specialized training all the more rare."
Twenty-eight physicians have received DMRF clinical fellowships to date. These outstanding clinicians have since joined movement disorder programs at prestigious institutions and begun practicing in communities previously without a dystonia expert.
Common signs of dystonia include abnormal movements of the head and neck, excessive blinking, a breathy or choking voice, hand cramps, or a twisted foot. In addition to motor symptoms, individuals with dystonia frequently experience chronic pain, depression, and anxiety disorders. Even among neurologists, dystonia is not well recognized. Estimates suggest no fewer than 250,000 Americans are affected. There are multiple forms of dystonia that impact people of all ages and backgrounds.
The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) is a 501c3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing research for improved treatments and ultimately a cure, promoting awareness, and supporting the well-being of affected individuals and families. The DMRF can be reached at 800-377-3978, dystonia@dystonia-