Billy McLaughlin Elected to Dystonia Medical Research Foundation Board of Directors

Published: Aug 26, 2011

CHICAGO, Aug. 25, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --Critically-acclaimed guitarist and composer Billy McLaughlin is the newest member to join the board of the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (DMRF), a non-profit organization that serves individuals impacted by dystonia, a neurological disease.

"The DMRF is an organization that's making great progress in research to better understand and cure this disorderand to bring visibility to the devastating impact of dystonia on those of us who are diagnosed," says McLaughlin. "I'm thrilled to continue being a part of this work."

McLaughlin, a Minneapolis native, began developing his signature sound at the University of Southern California. Employing his unique style of placing both hands on the fretboard, he began composing for his first release by creating a harp-like effect on the acoustic guitar. This unusual approach led McLaughlin to extensive national touring and multiple NACA Campus Entertainer awards. In 1995 McLaughlin signed a multi-album, international contract with the Virgin Records label Narada whose first release, Fingerdance, peaked at #7 on the Billboard charts. Hundreds of shows a year and deep into his contract, he began struggling with his hands.

For two years, McLaughlin grappled with mysterious and unrelenting muscle spasms in his left hand. As symptoms grew worse he could no longer perform most of his own repertoire. In 2001, McLaughlin was diagnosed with focal hand dystonia. Against doctors' recommendations, McLaughlin began the daunting journey of teaching himself to play in his signature style, left-handed. In 2004 a film crew began following McLaughlin's desperate attempt to regain his career. In 2007, Billy published a limited release of Into the Light, a concert recording of compositions for acoustic guitar with string orchestra, and his first recording as a left-handed guitarist.

"Billy is as energetic and enthusiastic about making life better for people with dystonia as he is about his music, which is truly inspiring. It's an honor for the DMRF to have him be a part of our team," says Executive Director Janet Hieshetter.

McLaughlin was appointed DMRF's Ambassador of Awareness in 2009 for his efforts to educate the public about dystonia. The documentary about his journey, Changing Keys, began airing on PBS stations across the country in 2010. That same year, he received the American Academy of Neurology Leadership in Public Neurology Award. McLaughlin is a frequent speaker at DMRF events, founded a support group, and has been an active legislative advocate on behalf of the dystonia community for the past two years.

Dystonia is a movement disorder that causes muscles to contract and spasm involuntarily resulting in twisting, repetitive movements and abnormal postures. Dystonia may be generalized, affecting multiple muscle groups, or focal, affecting a specific part of the body. There is no known cure.

Founded in 1976, the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation is a 501c3 organization whose mission is to advance research toward improved treatments and a cure, promoting education and awareness, and providing support resources to affected individuals and families. The organization can be reached at or 800-377-DYST (3978).

Contact: Jessica Feeley, Ph: 912-510-0337,

SOURCE Dystonia Medical Research Foundation

Back to news