Background: Impaired eyeblink conditioning is often cited as evidence for cerebellar dysfunction in isolated dystonia yet the results from individual studies are conflicting and underpowered. Objective: To systematically examine the influence of dystonia, dystonia subtype, and clinical features over eyeblink conditioning within a statistical model which controlled for the covariates age and sex. Methods: Original neurophysiological data from all published studies (until 2019) were shared and compared to an age- and sex-matched control group. Two raters blinded to participant identity rescored all recordings (6732 trials). After higher inter-rater agreement was confirmed, mean conditioning per block across raters was entered into a mixed repetitive measures model. Results: Isolated dystonia (P = 0.517) and the subtypes of isolated dystonia (cervical dystonia, DYT-TOR1A, DYT-THAP1, and focal hand dystonia) had similar levels of eyeblink conditioning relative to controls. The presence of tremor did not significantly influence levels of eyeblink conditioning. A large range of eyeblink conditioning behavior was seen in both health and dystonia and sample size estimates are provided for future studies. Conclusions: The similarity of eyeblink conditioning behavior in dystonia and controls is against a global cerebellar learning deficit in isolated dystonia. Precise mechanisms for how the cerebellum interplays mechanistically with other key neuroanatomical nodes within the dystonic network remains an open research question.
- eyeblink conditioning
- associative learning