Laryngeal Dystonia: Multidisciplinary Update on Terminology, Pathophysiology, and Research Priorities


To delineate research priorities for improving clinical management of laryngeal dystonia, the NIH convened a multidisciplinary panel of experts for a 1-day workshop to examine the current progress in understanding its etiopathophysiology and clinical care.


The participants reviewed the current terminology of disorder and discussed advances in understanding its pathophysiology since a similar workshop was held in 2005. Clinical and research gaps were identified, and recommendations for future directions were delineated.


The panel unanimously agreed to adopt the term “laryngeal dystonia” instead of “spasmodic dysphonia” to reflect the current progress in characterizations of this disorder. Laryngeal dystonia was recognized as a multifactorial, phenotypically heterogeneous form of isolated dystonia. Its etiology remains unknown, whereas the pathophysiology likely involves large-scale functional and structural brain network disorganization. Current challenges include the lack of clinically validated diagnostic markers and outcome measures and the paucity of therapies that address the disorder pathophysiology.


Research priorities should be guided by challenges in clinical management of laryngeal dystonia. Identification of disorder-specific biomarkers would allow the development of novel diagnostic tools and unified measures of treatment outcome. Elucidation of the critical nodes within neural networks that cause or modulate symptoms would allow the development of targeted therapies that address the underlying pathophysiology. Given the rarity of laryngeal dystonia, future rapid research progress may be facilitated by multicenter, national and international collaborations.

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