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October 4, 2022

Raising Dystonia Awareness at the Los Angeles Zoo

by Amelia Garrison

Movement Disorders specialist, Natalie Diaz, MD, helped launch the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation’s Los Angeles Dystonia Zoo Day on October 1st, 2022. The annual event promotes dystonia awareness and community connections.

Pacific Neuroscience Institute (PNI) was a proud sponsor of this special event for dystonia patients and their loved ones on Saturday, October 1st, 2022, at the Los Angeles Zoo. The event was one of many dystonia events planned throughout September and October by the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF) to connect the dystonia community and promote awareness of the disorder. Dystonia awareness month is in September each year.

PNI expert Natalie Diaz, MD, gave opening remarks at the event along with DMRF president Mark Rudolph, and patient advocate Jacquelyn Coello. Many PNI team members including director of the Pacific Movement Disorders Center, Melita Petrossian, MD, were on hand to interact with participants.

What is dystonia?

Dystonia refers to abnormal muscle postures or positioning, and can affect the entire body (generalized dystonia) or one body part (focal dystonia). It is mostly managed with medical treatments. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) surgery is sometimes recommended.

Oral medications given for the treatment of dystonia can include:

  • Muscle relaxants such as baclofen, tizanidine (Xanaflex), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril)
  • Benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium) and clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • Anticholinergic medications such as trihexyphenidyl (Artane)

The mainstay of treatment of dystonia is botulinum toxin injections such as Botox and Xeomin. Botulinum toxin works to partially block the communication between the nerve and the muscle, thereby relaxing overly tight muscles. 

Supporting the dystonia community

DMRF’s mission is to advance research for more treatments and ultimately a cure for dystonia, to promote awareness and education, and to support the needs and well being of affected individuals and families. DMRF was thrilled to have in-person zoo events in addition to online events this year after two years of virtual gatherings, event organizer Debbie Durrer noted. Participants were able to meet representatives and volunteers from DMRF, Ipsen, a global biopharmaceutical company transforming medicines in the neurosciences; Merz Therapeutics, a pharmaceutical company dedicated to addressing the unique needs of those suffering from movement disorders; and Allergan (now Abbvie), a manufacturer of medical devices and name-brand medicine for the central nervous system. Afterwards, guests were free to explore the zoo for the rest of the day.

Dystonia Experts at Pacific Neuroscience Institute

Guests had the opportunity to learn about supportive care services offered at PNI’s Pacific Movement Disorders Center in Torrance and Santa Monica, CA. Properly managing movement disorders must include both education and support. With informational programs, support groups, psychological care, and caregiver guidance, PNI experts are with you at every step.

Movement disorders neurology specialist Dr. Natalie Diaz, is an experienced physician in the evaluation and management of patients with dystonia. At PNI South Bay in Torrance, Dr. Diaz specializes in the therapeutic administration of botulinum toxin injections for non-cosmetic indications of focal dystonia, as well as in the evaluation and programming of deep brain stimulation as a treatment for dystonia.

Natalie Diaz, MD, and Melita Petrossian, MD.

Dr. Melita Petrossian, director of the Pacific Movement Disorders Center, specializes in a wide range of movement disorders in PNI’s Santa Monica clinic.

Jean-Philippe Langevin, MD, who was not in attendance, is the director of restorative neurosurgery, and is an expert deep brain stimulation neurosurgeon in both Torrance and Santa Monica.

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About the Author

Amelia Garrison MPhil

Amelia Garrison

Amelia Garrison is the Marketing Specialist at Pacific Neuroscience Institute (PNI). Well versed in community outreach strategy and implementation, she leads the PNI blog, newsletter, and digital communications. Amelia oversees PNI's reputation management and community sponsorships.

Last updated: October 24th, 2022