Electrophysiological features of central motor conduction in spinocerebellar atrophy type 1, type 2, and Machado-Joseph disease

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Abstract

Objectives

To characterise electrophysiologically the central motor conduction of spinocerebellar atrophy type 1 (SCA1), type 2 (SCA2), and Machado-Joseph disease (MJD).

Methods

Motor evoked potentials (MEPs) triggered by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was used to investigate the functions of corticospinal tracts of 10 patients with SCA1, 10 with MJD, and eight with SCA2 in addition to pathological study of the spinal cord in a patient with SCA1.

Results

Central motor conduction time (CMCT) was extremely prolonged and the MEP threshold increased in all patients with SCA1, whereas both were normal in patients with SCA2 or MJD. The MEP size in MJD was larger than normal, but was normal in SCA1 and SCA2. A pathological investigation of the corticospinal tract of the spinal cord of a patient with SCA1 showed selective loss of large diameter fibres.

Conclusions

SCA1, SCA2, and MJD differ in their pathophysiological features of the central motor tract and can be differentiated from each other by MEP values for the lower limb muscles, even though their neurological symptoms are sometimes similar.

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