Medical Field: Neurology
Award: Winner
Country: Serbia
Year: 2021
Research Work: Brain Structural Changes in Focal Dystonia—What About Task Specificity? A Multimodal MRI Study
Published in: Movement Disorders


The awards are an amazing way to encourage young scientists.


Aleksandra Tomić Pešić, MD, PhD is a neurologist at the Clinic for Neurology, University Clinical Center in Serbia. She was very honoured and excited to be nominated for the International Medis Awards, as it means that her dystonia research has been recognised and appreciated. 

As Tomić Pešić, MD, PhD, explained, clinical work and research have always been intertwined and equally important to her. She was fortunate to start her career in the Department of Movement Disorders under the guidance of Professor Vladimir Kostić, who encouraged her to develop new ideas and persevere in her clinical and research work. In addition, the dystonia project was a long-lasting international collaboration with colleagues at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan.

The main focus of this research was on the task specificity of dystonia, characterised by a deficit of motor control in a specific motor skill, such as writing, speaking, singing, playing an instrument or using arms or legs in different ways. The entire team was intrigued by this very interesting and still mysterious and obscure phenomenon. 

To investigate the underlying morphological correlates of task specificity, we performed non-conventional structural MRI of the brain in patients with task-specific focal dystonia and compared them to patients with non-task-specific focal dystonia. We demonstrated the opposite pattern of structural brain damage in these two different groups of patients. The group with task-specific dystonia showed an increase in cortical thickness and volume in brain regions related to higher-order sensorimotor, visual, and language functions, whereas the patients with non-task-specific dystonia showed cortical and subcortical atrophy, especially in some areas of SM processing and M control. Our results suggest that the control of skilled motor tasks is based on higher order networks in the brain.

Tomić Pešić, MD, PhD believes that their research could increase the understanding of the complexity of the different mechanisms underlying this disorder and thus contribute to the design of better therapeutic approaches.

She always devotes her free time to her little son and husband. She enjoys reading contemporary literature and listening to music.