Essential tremor pathophysiology linked to cortex and cerebellum

Neely et al. (2014) Cerebral Cortex

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It is well-established that during goal-directed motor tasks, patients with essential tremor have increased oscillations in the 0–3 and 3–8 Hz bands. It remains unclear if these increased oscillations relate to activity in specific brain regions. This study used task-based functional magnetic resonance imaging to compare the brain activity associated with oscillations in grip force output between patients with essential tremor, patients with Parkinson’s disease who had clinically evident tremor, and healthy controls. The findings demonstrate that patients with essential tremor have increased brain activity in the motor cortex and supplementary motor area compared with controls, and this activity correlated positively with 3–8 Hz force oscillations. Brain activity in cerebellar lobules I–V was reduced in essential tremor compared with controls and correlated negatively with 0–3 Hz force oscillations. Widespread differences in brain activity were observed between essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease. Using functional connectivity analyses during the task evidenced reduced cerebellar-cortical functional connectivity in patients with essential tremor compared with controls and Parkinson’s disease. This study provides new evidence that in essential tremor 3–8 Hz force oscillations relate to hyperactivity in motor cortex, 0–3 Hz force oscillations relate to the hypoactivity in the cerebellum, and cerebellar-cortical functional connectivity is impaired.

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