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Hand Dexterity and Pyramidal Dysfunction in Friedreich Ataxia, A Finger Tapping Study

Loss of hand dexterity has a profound impact on disability in patients with cerebellar, pyramidal, or extrapyramidal diseases. Analysis of multiple finger tapping (FT) parameters can contribute to identify the underlying physiopathology, while providing a quantitative clinical assessment tool, particularly in patients not reliably evaluated using clinical rating scales. This study used an automated method of FT analysis in Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) to disentangle cerebellar (prominent FT rate variability), extrapyramidal (FT progressive amplitude reduction without slowing of tapping rate), and pyramidal (progressive decrease of FT rate and amplitude) contribution to upper limb loss of dexterity. FT parameters were then related to FRDA clinical parameters and upper limbs motor evoked potential (MEPs). Twenty-four FRDA patients and matched healthy subjects performed FT with the dominant hand for 90 seconds. FT rate, FT rate variability, FT amplitude, and linear regressions of FT movement parameters were automatically computed. Eleven patients underwent MEPs, measured at the first dorsal interosseous of the dominant hand to determine central motor conduction time (CMCT). FRDA patients had slower and more regular FT rate than controls. Eleven FRDA patients showed FT rate slowing. Those patients had longer disease duration and higher Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia (SARA) scores. Seven patients with FT rate slowing had MEP and all displayed prolonged CMCT, whereas the 4 other patients with constant FT rate had normal CMCT. This study provides evidence for a prominent involvement of pyramidal dysfunction in upper limb dexterity loss as well as a potential outcome measure for clinical studies in FRDA.

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