Understanding essential tremor

From McGill University:

IMAGE: Essential tremor affects nearly 1 percent of the world’s population, increasing to 4 percent of those over 40. view more

Credit: Simon Girard

You probably know someone who has it. It is the most common movement disorder, yet most people don’t even know its name.

Essential tremor affects nearly one per cent of the world’s population, increasing to four per cent of those over 40. The involuntary shaking of hands is the most common symptom, but symptoms can also include shaking of the head and legs.

Often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor has less severe health impacts, but does get worse over time and can have debilitating consequences. Essential tremor has a large genetic component; it is common to have large families with several members affected. Until recently, however, the genetic mechanism behind the disease remained unknown.

Researchers at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University and Kiel University in Germany have led a large international collaborative study that sheds new light on the genetics behind essential tremor, in a paper published in Brain Journal on Oct. 21, 2016. It is the largest study on essential tremor to date.

Studying a group of 2,809 patients, the researchers found a strong correlation between essential tremor and a gene known as STK32B. They also found two other genes correlated to a lesser extent with the disease. Now they plan to test even more patients to understand how these genes may contribute to the development of the disease and find other predisposing genes.

“We have the first clue now, but we want to expand on that because we still have much to learn” says Simon Girard, now a professor at the Université du Quebec à Chicoutimi and the paper’s …

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