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What Is Dysdiadochokinesia?

Computed tomography (CT) scans may reveal the brain injury causing dysdiadochokinesia.
Lesions on the cerebellum are often to blame for dysdiadochokinesia.
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  • Written By: C. K. Lanz
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 29 June 2014
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Dysdiadochokinesia is a medical condition characterized by a patient’s difficulty when trying to execute quick, alternating movements. It is often the result of lesions on the cerebellum’s posterior lobe that make it hard to turn antagonizing muscle groups on and off. A doctor will usually diagnose the condition after asking the patient to perform a series of simple movements such as turning a door knob, screwing in a lightblub, or rubbing his or her shin with the opposite heel. A patient with dysdiadochokinesia will be unable to execute these tasks steadily or quickly, if at all.

This medical term is a combination of the Greek words for “bad,” “receive,” and “movement.” The condition is a key sign of many cerebral disorders, including multiple sclerosis and neocerebellar syndrome, and is caused by lesions in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that governs motor control. A person with dysdiadochokinesia will not be able to perform rapid alternate movements like winding a watch or moving the tongue quickly from one side of the mouth to the other.

Performing alternating movements steadily and quickly requires significant cerebellum coordination. As a result, patients with lesions or other cerebellar disorders can develop dysdiadochokinesia because this coordination is disturbed. The affected muscles can weaken and tire more easily and the patient can seem uncoordinated and clumsy, a condition known as ataxia.

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A doctor will test for dysdiadochokinesia by asking the patient to perform several simple tasks that require fast, alternating movements. The patient’s ability to perform will depend on the muscles affected by any lesions in the cerebellum. Common tests include having the patient turn his or her hand over several times in rapid succession against a hard, flat surface. The patient may also be asked to touch his or her nose and then quickly touch the doctor’s finger. Turning a doorknob is another typical dysdiadochokinesia diagnostic test.

Once dysdiadochokinesia is suspected, the doctor may perform other tests to determine the underlying medical condition. Dysdiadochokinesia is often a sign of a cerebral disorder, basal ganglia, or a disease of the frontal lobes. Treating the underlying condition, if possible, can improve dysdiadochokinesia.

This condition is caused by lesions in the cerebellum. Treating a lesion can be complicated because there are so many causes, and success depends on the type. A lesion is usually diagnosed through imaging studies like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and a lesion that is not growing or causing symptoms will often be monitored without medical intervention.

Other lesions can be treated with surgery, antibiotics, or chemotherapy depending on the cause. If the immune system is attacking brain tissue, a doctor may prescribe a medication that changes this response. Physical therapy may help patients with dysdiadochokinesia adapt and regain some motor control.

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