Harvard Mental Health Letter

In Brief: Writer's cramp is partly in your head - but where?

In Brief

Writer's cramp is partly in your head — but where?

Writer's cramp is a painful spasm that may afflict anyone who wields a pen. Clearly writer's cramp involves hand muscles, but its brain basis remains unclear.

Previous studies have suggested that the basal ganglia, a part of the brain that plays an important role in motor coordination, might be involved in writer's cramp. But more recent research is implicating the cerebellum, which also helps to control movement by activating a different neural network.

French researchers reported that they used imaging technology to compare brain structures in 30 people with writer's cramp and 30 people without. They found that people with writer's cramp had less "gray matter" (neurons) in areas of three brain regions — the cerebellum, the thalamus, and the primary sensorimotor cortex — that form a circuit controlling movement.

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