Huntington’s Disease research update

Handwriting Can Help Identify Asymptomatic Huntington’s, Study Suggests.

WORDS Alberto Molano, PhD from Huntington’s Disease News

ANALYSIS OF handwriting movements using a pen tablet and specialised software can accurately distinguish  people with Huntington’s disease who are still asymptomatic from those without the disease, a new study suggests.

The findings also reveal that certain stroke  features  differ significantly between healthy individuals and patients who are already experiencing Huntington’s symptoms.

The research, “Handwriting Movement abnormalities in Symptomatic and premanifest huntington’s Disease,” was published in the journal Movement Disorders Clinical Practice.

Handwriting abnormalities in huntington’s patients were last reported nearly 20 years ago, and included longer stroke duration and greater variability in stroke velocity. among questions still unanswered is whether assessing handwriting movements can help detect abnormalities in the asymptomatic (premanifest) stage of Huntington’s and serve as a predictor of disease progression.

To investigate, researchers at university of California San Diego test- ed whether handwriting abnormalities were associated with clinical features in symptomatic patients, and if such abnormalities could distinguish asymptomatic Huntington’s patients from healthy controls.

The team asked participants to complete five simple tasks: draw simple loops left to right (a string of “l” letters in cursive writing), complex loops (“lleel- lee”), rapid overlay circles, and spirals, and write the  sentence “today is a nice day.”

Participants used a Wacom digitizing  tablet,  a  device  often used by artists to draw on a computer  screen.  the  tablet  has  a special pen and is sensitive to the level of applied pressure, mimicking traditional drawing on paper. Handwriting traces were recorded and analyzed using a specialized software called MovAlyzeR.

The study involved 38 symptomatic patients (mean age of 55 years), 30 asymptomatic individuals at risk for symptomatic disease (45 years), and 25 healthy controls (44 years).

Results revealed significantly longer and more variable stroke du- ration, as well as decreased hand- writing smoothness, and increased and more variable pen pressures in the handwriting of Huntington’s patients compared with the handwriting of the healthy controls.

Longer stroke duration was associated with greater penney burden of pathology (BOP) and CAG × age product, two measures of disease progression. Of note, the CAG × age product is calculated by multiplying the number of CAG repeats by the patient’s age.

CAG repeats are the genetic abnormality in people with huntington’s. Patients may have 36 to more than 120 of these repeats of three DNA building blocks (cytosine, adenine, and guanine) in their HTT gene. The longer this region is, the earlier the symptoms appear and the more severe the disease.

Handwriting abnormalities in Huntington’s patients were last reported nearly 20 years ago...

Data also showed that analysis of certain handwriting features could distinguish asymptomatic patients from controls with 85% accuracy, 90% sensitivity, and 80% specificity. these included greater variability in stroke amplitude, velocity and pen pressure, higher levels of pen pressure, longer stroke durations, and lower velocities for combinations of handwritten circles, sentences, and spirals.

“These findings support the clinical utility of dynamic measures of hand- writing kinematics as a potential early behavioral biomarker in [huntington’s],” the researchers wrote.

However, they cautioned that these results require confirmation, especially those in asymptomatic patients, and that studies in larger groups are still needed.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on email

Latest Research Articles

HD and Histamines: Targeting Hybrid Receptors to Quiet Stressful Brain Talk

Published date: 15 July, 2020

Dopamine is an important chemical messenger in the brain that becomes imbalanced in Huntington’s disease. Researchers recently described a creative way to restore the balance and treat symptoms in HD mice, using an antihistamine drug that acts on hybrid dopamine receptors. It’s an innovative approach to HD therapeutics, but don’t start reaching for allergy meds ... Read more HD and Histamines: Targeting Hybrid Receptors to Quiet Stressful Brain Talk

Changing jobs: converting other cell types into neurons

Published date: 23 June, 2020

Researchers have known for quite some time that HD causes a progressive loss of neurons. But what if we could find a way to fill their place? In a new report, researchers used an intriguing strategy in living mice to do just that – they converted a different type of brain cell into neurons, with ... Read more Changing jobs: converting other cell types into neurons

HD Young Adult Study defines the sweet spot: symptom-free with measurable changes

Published date: 27 May, 2020

A new study headed up by Dr. Sarah Tabrizi, a pioneer in HD research, assessed pre-manifest HD young adults many years from predicted symptom onset with a battery of clinical tests. The goal of this study was to identify a sweet spot – a time when HD participants weren’t experiencing any observable symptoms, but when ... Read more HD Young Adult Study defines the sweet spot: symptom-free with measurable changes

Fountain of youth: HTT protein repairs neurons by maintaining youthful state

Published date: 13 May, 2020

A team of scientists has recently published their findings on how our bodies are able to repair brain and spinal cord injuries. They found that the huntingtin protein plays an important role in repairing damaged nerve cells. Repairing nervous system damage – the holy grail of medical science It has long been the ambition of ... Read more Fountain of youth: HTT protein repairs neurons by maintaining youthful state
Light and sleep

Light and Sleep

Published date: 7 April, 2020

Light & sleep Neurofilament Light Protein and Lifestyle Factors Commentary Words Dr Travis Cruickshank and Dr Danielle Bartlett

What does COVID-19 mean for Huntington’s disease families and HD research?

Published date: 6 April, 2020

COVID-19, short for coronavirus disease 2019, has taken the world by storm in almost every sense – many people have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it’s created shopping pandemonium in stores, and many people are isolated at home. But behind that frenzied storm, scientists around the world have been working tirelessly to move research ... Read more What does COVID-19 mean for Huntington’s disease families and HD research?

Welcome to our new website!

Please bear with us while we iron out the last minute wrinkles! If you have any feedback about our new site, please fill out the form below.