Movement Disorders

Movement disorders are a group of neurological conditions that that affect the speed, fluency, and ease of movement causing a person to have abnormal voluntary or involuntary movements, or slow movements.  More than 30 different diseases, affecting almost 40 million Americans, are characterized as neurological movement disorders. Although many movement disorders are not life threatening, they can significantly impair patients' ability to perform daily activities independently. Depression and other mental problems are often associated with movement disorders.

Common Movement Disorders

  • Ataxia is lack of coordination and often produces jerky movements.
  • Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder characterized by involuntary muscle contraction leading to abnormal postures and twisting movements.
  • Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder that is caused by degeneration of the nerve cells that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine in the substania nigra -the part of the brain which controls movement.
  • Tics are involuntary muscle contractions.
  • Tourette's syndrome is hereditary disorder whose symptoms include motor or vocal tics and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
  • Dyskinesia is abnormal uncontrolled movement and is a common symptom of many movement disorders. Tremors are a type of dyskinesia.
  • Essential Tremor is an uncontrolled shaking or trembling, usually of one or both hands or arms that worsens when basic movements are attempted.
  • Huntington's disease is a hereditary progressive neurological disorder whose symptoms include: involuntary movements, gait abnormalities with falling and dementia.

Emory as a National Leader in the Clinical and Laboratory Research of Movement Disorders

Emory is a national leader for clinical and laboratory research of movement disorders.  In fact, the American Parkinson Disease Association designated Emory University as its first Center of Excellence in 1991.  In the last 15 years, work in these disorders has been expanding and lead to the development of new treatments. For instance, Emory University physicians and scientists have been at the heart of the development of surgical therapies.  Dr. Mahlon DeLong and a team that included Dr. Thomas Wichmann, among others, established Emory as a world leader in in functional neurosurgery, and in particular pallidotomy.  They subsequently went on to develop deep brain stimulation (DBS) for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease.   DBS is currently a widely use treatment option for Parkinson’s disease as well as additional movement disorders including essential tremor and dystonia.