3rd International Congress on Treatment of Dystonia and Satellite Symposia attracted 500 participants from 37 countries

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From May 4-7, the third triennial international conference on treatment of dystonia took place in Hannover, Germany. As in the previous conferences, again emphasis in this conference was laid on novel treatments of all kind of dystonias, including injection therapies with Botulinum toxin, deep brain stimulation, various behavioral methods and emerging means of influencing or even preventing the development of movement disorders.

About 80 world-leading peers from all continents gathered to share insights and new research data with overall nearly 500 attendants, including neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropediatricians, geneticists, health-professionals and delegates of various patient groups. Furthermore about 70 PhD students and junior research fellows presented their work in the poster-area demonstrating impressively the attraction of movement disorders research to the future generation.

This time, the format of the conference was developed further by including as a new event a satellite symposium on Dystonia in Sports and for the second time a Symposium on Rehabilitation of Dystonia. Furthermore, an intensive course for industry professionals was offered in order to present a concise “state of the art” of the different options to treat dystonia. Nine hands-on-workshops and focussed satellite symposia on various treatments supplemented the conference and contributed to the vivid exchange of the attendants and the faculty.

Last, but not least, the beautiful spring weather and the careful chosen social events, including a dinner in the legendary Celle Castle of the House of Hannover, – their descendants currently representing the ruling houses in the UK, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands-, contributed to the success of the conference.

With respect to emerging new therapies it became clear, that pathophysiology of dystonia is far more complex than previously believed. In contrast to the traditionally predominating concept of dystonia as a disorder of the basal ganglia new data point towards a network disease, including basal ganglia, cerebellum and cortex. This has been impressively demonstrated with new brain-imaging studies, analysing resting state activity and coherences of distant brain regions. Furthermore, neurogenetics has revealed a plethora of new findings concerning different forms of dystonia and defining new entities of dystonias. Bottom line of this research is that many genes may be involved and that the phenotype of some genetic manifestations may be extremely heterogeneous, ranging from musician’s cramp to generalized dystonia. A new finding, put forward in sports and musician’s dystonia is the close link of task-specific focal dystonias to overuse and specific psychological conditions such as performance anxiety and fear of failure.

Botulinum-Toxin still is the therapy of choice for most of the focal dystonias. Here, development of new toxins and improvement of treatment algorithms were the most urgent topics on the agenda. However, the “old” anticholinergic drugs, such as trihexiphenidyl still prove to be useful when carefully dosed and closely monitored.

For deep-brain stimulation, hotly debated topics were the quest for new targets, such as the thalamus and subthalamic nucleus.  Furthermore methodological improvements, new stimulation devices and more fine tuned frequency determination were discussed. Special emphasis was laid on treatment of severe dystonia in early infancy and childhood. Novel topics, such as treatment of dystonic storm, - a neurological emergency,- were for the first time included in the conference. Other unique features of the conference were the special lecture on dystonia in famous musicians, featuring amongst others Robert Schumann, Vladimir Horowitz, Glenn Gould and Keith Emerson.

After four intensive days of presentations, scientific discussions, informal exchange and hands on training, participants and faculty returned home, full with precious memories and new ideas to further improve treatment of dystonia.  The organisers are extremely grateful for the generous support of the industrial sponsors. Without their help this conference would not have been possible. In the end, the aim of the conference was fully met: A conference for the benefit of those who suffer from dystonia!

The fourth conference is to come...


For the organisers:

Eckart AltenmüllerDirk DresslerJoachim Krauss
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