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Abstract

Dystonia is a heterogeneous group of hyperkinetic movement disorders. The unifying descriptor of dystonia is the motor manifestation, characterized by continuous or intermittent contractions of muscles that cause abnormal movements and postures. Additionally, there are psychiatric, cognitive, and sensory alterations that are possible or putative non-motor manifestations of dystonia. The pathophysiology of dystonia is incompletely understood. A better understanding of dystonia pathophysiology is highly relevant in the amelioration of significant disability associated with motor and non-motor manifestations of dystonia. Recently, diminished olfaction was found to be a potential non-motor manifestation that may worsen the situation of subjects with dystonia. Yet, this finding may also shed light into dystonia pathophysiology and yield novel treatment options. This article aims to provide background information on dystonia and the current understanding of its pathophysiology, including the key structures involved, namely, the basal ganglia, cerebellum, and sensorimotor cortex. Additionally, involvement of these structures in the chemical senses are reviewed to provide an overview on how olfactory (and gustatory) deficits may occur in dystonia. Finally, we describe the present findings on altered chemical senses in dystonia and discuss directions of research on olfactory dysfunction as a marker in dystonia.

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