Huntington's Korea or the San Vito dance

Huntington's Korea or the San Vito dance

In 1872 Dr. George Huntington (United States, 1850-1916) first described this strange disease. A mother and daughter had involuntary and abnormal movements, continuous mental deterioration and suicidal tendencies. Dr. Huntington baptized this disease as "hereditary chorea." Korea is a term from Greek and its meaning is equivalent to dance. It is a concept used to express the movements of patients. Currently, it is a disease known as Huntington's Korea or San Vito dance.

Apparently, those affected by this disease, embarked on a pilgrimage path to the chapel of St. Vitus, in Ulm, a German city located on the banks of the Danube. Names like "progressive chronic chorea" have also been used to clarify and emphasize that it is a degenerative disease.


  • 1 What is Huntington's Korea?
  • 2 Etiology
  • 3 Treatment
  • 4 Psychological support

What is Huntington's Korea?

It is a neurodegenerative disease whose main characteristic is the loss of normal functioning of the brain's neural connections. This failure causes, little by little, the person to present a series of characteristic physical disorders. Among them are the difficulties in walking and movement control. The loss of motion control causes problems in the patient's day to day, preventing satisfactory autonomy. They may also have difficulty swallowing.

As noted by Arnedo, Bembimre and Triviño (2012), "Patients begin with tics, especially in times of greater agitation, and progressively increase the choreic movements, which end up extending to the head, neck and extremities". The authors highlight that there are also frequent symptoms such as stiffness, slowness or the inability to initiate movements voluntarily.

However, not only motor disorders, but also cognitive disorders appear. Patients affected by Huntington's Korea have difficulty learning new things. At the same time, they also It is difficult to plan and usually manifest a series of psychological and psychiatric disorders. It is a genetic and inherited disease.


Different research suggests that Huntington's Korea is due to atrophy of the base ganglia. Specifically, for the degeneration of neurons with spiny dendrites of the striatum (Arnedo, Bembibre and Triviño, 2012).

One of the functions of basal ganglia It is the regulation between the frontal cortex and the surrounding structures responsible for the beginning and end of both voluntary and involuntary movements. In this way, when the striatum is atrophied, there is an increase in involuntary movements.


To date there is no treatment that ends Huntington's Korea. However, this does not prevent patients from intervening at different levels to try to improve their quality of life. Interventions are performed at the motor, cognitive, emotional and behavioral level.

Frank and Jankovic (2010), highlight the pharmacological treatment of this disease. These authors state that treatment with tetrabenazine and typical or atypical neuroleptics decreases involuntary movements and slows motor degeneration.

Antidepressants such as fluoxetine It can also be prescribed to improve the depressive symptoms that these patients may show, as well as aggressiveness and irritability.

Psychological Support

The Espinoza-Suárez team (2016) exposes the importance of psychological support in patients with Huntington's Korea. There are several concepts to consider: anxiety, depression, apathy, impulse control and irritability.

  • Anxiety. Due to the anxiety that this disease can cause in the patient, It is advisable to establish predictable routines and, in this way, make life easier. It is convenient to try to minimize the difficulties and concerns of the patient to prevent anxiety states that may further exacerbate the symptoms.
  • Depression. Depression can be associated with this disease, so the intervention of the psychologist will be essential to maintain a good mood of the patient. If necessary, a joint intervention of psychologist and psychiatrist would also be assessed.
  • Apathy. Often the patient loses motivation and interest in day-to-day activities. Apart from having an impact on your mood, you can also influence your environment by generating demotivation. It is important to involve family and closest friends in therapy, and make them aware of the psychological repercussions of the disease. In this regard it will be important to organize a schedule with different activities to carry out. In this way, you will try to be animated through different tasks and exercises.
  • Impulse control In this case, the patient would move away from possible harmful stimuli as dangerous objects. The abuse of substances such as alcohol or tobacco would also be prevented. As well as, establish control over your financial expenses.
  • Irritability. It is important to show a calm attitude towards patients with Huntington's Korea. If you scream we will ask you to stop screaming; If you are irritated, we will be calm. You will be offered routines to try to avoid unforeseen stimuli that can trigger explosive behaviors.


  • Arnedo, M., Bembibre, J. and Triviño, M. (2012). Neuropsychology Through clinical cases. Madrid: Pan American Medical Editorial.
  • Espinoza-Suárez, N., Palacios-García, J. and Morante-Osores, M. (2016). Palliative care in Huntington's disease: perspectives from primary health care.Neuropsychiatry Magazine, 79 (4).
  • Frank, S. and Jancovic, J. (2004). Advances in the pharmacological management of Huntington's disease. Drugs, 70, 561-571.