Quantitative, clinically relevant acoustic measurements of focal embouchure dystonia

Aimee E. Morris, Scott A. Norris, Joel S. Perlmutter, Jonathan W. Mink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Focal embouchure dystonia impairs orofacial motor control in wind musicians and causes professional disability. A paucity of quantitative measures or rating scales impedes the objective assessment of treatment efficacy. Objectives: We quantified specific features of focal embouchure dystonia using acoustic measures and developed a metric to assess severity across multiple domains of symptomatic impairment. Methods: We recruited 9 brass musicians with and 6 without embouchure dystonia. The following 4 domains of symptomatic dysfunction in focal embouchure dystonia were identified: pitch inaccuracy, sound instability and tremor, sound breaks, and timing variability. Musicians performed sustained tones and sequences, and then acoustic variables within each domain were quantified. A composite brass acoustic severity score composed of these variables was validated against clinical global impressions of severity. Results: Musicians with dystonia performed worse in acoustic domains of pitch inaccuracy (median: dystonia = 100%, control = 62%), instability (median shimmer: dystonia = 3%, control = 2%), and breaks (median: dystonia = 0.34%, control = 0.05%). Tremor in embouchure dystonia was 5 to 8 Hz, intermittent, and variable in amplitude. Rhythmic variability did not differ between groups. Participants with embouchure dystonia had different patterns of impairment across variables. Composite severity scores strongly predicted clinical global impression of severity (R 2 = 0.95). Conclusions: Acoustic variables distinguish musicians with embouchure dystonia from controls and reflect different types of symptomatic impairments. Our composite acoustic severity score predicts severity of clinical global impression for musicians with different patterns of symptomatic impairment and may provide a foundation for developing a clinical rating scale.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-458
Number of pages10
JournalMovement Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • clinical assessment
  • musician dystonia
  • task-specific dystonia


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