Earlier this year we announced that the Dystonia Society’s seed funding for a new research project has been awarded to Professor Ian Loram, Professor of Neuromuscular control of Human Movement at Manchester Metropolitan University, Faculty of Science and Engineering. Below he explains his project, “A clinical tool for real-time analysis and visualisation of cervical muscles for cervical dystonia”:

“The most frequent treatment employed in treating focal dystonia is botulinum toxin. For it to be very effective, the toxin needs to be injected into each “dystonic muscle”. Identifying each muscle affected by dystonia is at present only achieved by observation, examination or rarely via electromyography (EMG). Unfortunately, the neck contains some of the most complex muscle groups in the human body, with multiple muscles performing similar movements, with some muscles affected being too deep to feel or see during examination; making assessment by physical examination and EMG sometimes challenging.

This project aims to test and further develop our new clinical tool that will identify all muscles affected in neck dystonia, and create a real-time image of the structure and activity of these muscles. Ultimately this could enable an injector to scan the neck using an ultrasound probe and view, in real-time, a three-dimensional image of the neck muscles. The different muscles will each be clearly marked so that those muscles affected by dystonia can be accurately identified, injected and monitored.

To test this technique we are currently working with people with cervical dystonia, alongside a group of unaffected participants. This study involves using MRI and ultrasound imaging to build and refine our models of neck muscle structure and activity, to identify patterns associated with cervical dystonia that are not present in unaffected participants.

This tool will enhance the delivery of treatments such as botulinum toxin and physiotherapy, and provide treatments better targeted to the individual with dystonia; enhancing quality of life for those receiving treatment.”