Of mice and muscles: Dystonia discovery may help patients

Persistent team of U-M scientists study neurological condition that twists muscles of kids and adults

Dystonia causes muscles in the neck and limbs to twist or contract uncontrollably, in children and adults.

Dystonia causes muscles in the neck and limbs to twist or contract uncontrollably, in children and adults.

Twist and hold your neck to the left. Now down, and over to the right, until it hurts.

Now imagine your neck – or arms or legs – randomly doing that on their own, without you controlling it.

That’s a taste of what children and adults with a neurological condition called dystonia live with every day – uncontrollable twisting and stiffening of neck and limb muscles.

The mystery of why this happens, and what can prevent or treat it, has long puzzled doctors, who have struggled to help their suffering dystonia patients.

But a persistent team of University of Michigan scientists have finally opened the door to a new way of answering those questions and developing new options for patients.

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Shaky hand, stable spoon: High-tech help for essential tremor

U-M doctor tests shake-canceling device invented by U-M engineering grad

spoontremor.fwImagine picking up your spoon to enjoy a nice hot bowl of soup – only to find that your hand seems to have grown a mind of its own. Instead of bringing your spoon to your lips, your hand shakes and jerks, spilling soup everywhere.

For people with the nerve condition called essential tremor, which makes their hands shake uncontrollably, that frustrating, embarrassing scenario could happen any time they try to eat. And that leads many of them to shun restaurants, parties or even family meals.

But a new handheld electronic device can help such patients overcome these tremors when they eat – and potentially other tasks that involve holding something in their shaking hands.

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