400BC – Hippocrates wrote of someone with a stiff and painful neck and suggested treatments of manipulation of the joints, massage, rest or traction on a wooden table.
50 AD -Pliny the Elder suggested remedies to soften the neck.
1737– George Friedrich von Jager noticed in his study of neck dystonia that some patients were unable to move their head unless they used their hand to help. This may have been the first description in medical literature of the sensory trick.
1830– Charles Bell in Britain noticed that one patient with neck dystonia alleviated discomfort by standing with his head and left shoulder resting against the wall.
1850– Guillaume Benjammin Duchenne in France studied neck dystonia and found that patients sometime got relief from a voluntary contraction of all the neck muscles
1888– Charot noted that one patient with neck dystnoia and general muscle spasms could voluntarily suppress the spasm though Charoct does not mention how.
1894 – French neurologist Edouard Brissaud noted that sometimes ‘simple mannerisms’ “childish behavior’ or ‘fake pathological movements” could reverse muscle contraction in the neck. He thought the effect was just imagined as he showed photographs of seven patients. The gesture ‘applying the second finger of the left hand to the chin’ came to be known as Brissaud’s sign. He found that some patients could alleviate neck spasm by resting the head against a pillow, or touching the nose or forehead. One of the seven could reduce the dystonia by resting his head against a wall.
1896 – In Britain Thompson showed a photo of four patients all from the same family and all of whom had neck dystonia. One is holding her arms over her had to cup it, although the doctor does not mention the gesture in his paper.
1897 – R. Pauly, a French doctor, studied 3 patients with neck dystonia who used a version of the Brissaud sign. He showed a photo of a patient who reduced the dystonia by placing his hand at the back of his head.
1898 – Italian neurologist Sgobbo described a patient with neck dystonia which he called ‘mental torticollis’ or ‘Brissaud’s disease”. The patient touched her palm against her cheek as a counteracting gesture.
1899– Two French physicians, Nogues and Sirol, described and showed photos of a patient with neck dystonia. The condition was relieved when he put his index finger on the side of his chin, or in front of his ear, or when another person placed a finger on the patient’s face. This patient could also reduce the neck dystonia by wearing a wire device placed around his nose.
1900– Painter Amedeo Modigliani shows some figures in postures that look like dystonia. In several, his partner Jeanne Hebuterne has her head angulated and her hand is touching two fingers to her face in a common alleviating gesture for neck dystonia.
1901 – A French doctor, Dsetarac, took photos of a patient with dystonia of the neck, hand, foot and pelvis. She was able to reduce her spasms by putting her left hand on her chin and her right hand on her right hip. Another patient was able to reduce his neck and trunk dystonia by placing his left hand on his chin and his right hand across his chest clutching his side. Destarac started to admit he believed the trick effect was not just psychological.
1902 – French neurologists Henry Meige and Louis Clement Feindel started to call these little movements “gestes antagonistes”. In their study Tics and their Treatment” is a chapter XII ‘Antagonistic Gestures and Stratagems” The doctors said patients sometimes adopted singular attitudes, executed curious gestures and sometimes used elaborate apparatus to reduce their dystonia. They noted that one patient could relieve neck dystonia by touching near his left ear or even before he actually touched the area. Meige at first believed the condition was psychological but came to believe it had an actual physical basis.
1902– French doctor Joseph Babinski observed patients who used sensory gestures to reduce their neck dystonia and believed the gestures have a physical base. His study shows a photo of man trying to reduce the dystonia by placing his hand at the back of his head.
1904 – In Germany Steyerthal and Solger studied three siblings who all had dystonia. Two in the photos are using a gesture touching the chin with the fingers.
1905– Jeno Kollarits in Hungary studied six patients with neck dystonia. The photos show use of touching forehead, cupping hand over head, or touching cheek to alleviate the dystonia. However the doctor wrote his impression that two of the patients were ‘hysterical”, the term used at the time for dealing with imagined or psychological problems.
1910– Wilhelm Erb in Germany observed that neck dystonia could be relieved by putting pressure on certain trigeminal nerve innervated points which he called Druckpunte. These points link to the jaw, sinuses or eyes.
1911– Oppenheim describing generalized dystonia included illustrations of patients using a geste antagoniste though he did not describe the gestures. In one photo the patient is using a ‘water carrier’ gesture, one hand on hip, the other hand at the top of the head . In the second the patient with trunk dystonia is putting his left hand on his left knee to try to stay erect.
1930– the gestures to alleviate dystonia are now well recognized in medical literature but are given various names. In French one doctor called the gesture geste conjuratoire. In England the term became sensory trick, trick maneuver, corrective gesture or geste antagonisique. In German it was named antagonistische Bewegungne, Brissauds Handgriff, Kunstgriff or Widerstandsphanomen.
1930s – Neurologists Armin Steyerthal in Germany and Rene Cruchet in France studied the gestures.
1937– British neurologist Samuel Alexander Kinnier Wilson studied the gestures.
1944 – Herz believed that the gesture was a logical physical phenomenon, not an imaginary one.
2001-J. Muller and colleagues studied 50 patients with neck dystonia who had at least one geste antagoniste they used to alleviate the condition. 27 had more than one such geste.
2007 – Stanislaw Ochudlo studied 33 patients with neck dystonia, finding that 58% have a classic sensory trick and 42% use a forcible gesture to make their neck align better.
2010 – Davide Martino studied sensory tricks and found that 84% of patients with neck dystonia and 71% of patients with eye dystonia use them.
2013 – James.T. Boyd studied a patient with neck dystonia who was able to do an unusual sensory trick and reduce the dystonia by tonic left eye deviation, verified by clinical test, video and surface electromyography.
2013 – Vesper Fe Marie Llaneza Ramos noted that the tricks have been named motor tricks, imaginary tricks, forcible tricks, sensory tricks and reverse sensory tricks and proposed they be grouped together into a new classification.
2014 – P Filip studied 81 patients with neck dystonia . In a questionnaire 77% of subjects said they use force to correct an abnormal posture pushing the head to a normal position and 41% said they touch a part of their face or head to get the same effect.
2014 – Neepa Patel studied 154 people with cervical dystonia and found that 89.6% use a gesture to alleviate the condition. It is proposed by Neepa Patel and others that the gesture be called an ‘alleviating maneuvre’ because it is a physically beneficial motion not fake or a trick, and that calling it sensory assumes only sensory input is required. Other researchers point out that calling it a geste antagoniste may not be completely accurate since some of the maneuvers function by pushing with not against the direction of the dystonic pull.
2016 – Vesper Fe Marie Llaneza Ramos studied sensory tricks with a historical look at the research including photos and proposed several theories for the brain mechanisms involved.
2017 – Pooja Mailankody studied sensory tricks examining the neurological mechanism involved.
2019– Sonali Bhattad studied the history of sensory tricks.
2020– The sensory trick is now so commonly accepted that it is used to help differentiate genuine dystonia from other medical conditions