Covariation of corticospinal efficiency and silent period in motoneuron diseases

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For a better understanding of the changes affecting the cortically induced silent period (SP) in motoneuron disease, the excitatory and inhibitory effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation were explored repeatedly in 8 patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), 3 patients with Kennedy's disease (KD), and 10 healthy subjects. In KD, the background electromyogram (EMG) and the motor evoked potential (MEP) area were both enhanced. However, neither the corticospinal efficiency (MEP gain, the ratio between MEP and background EMG) nor the duration of the SP differed from healthy subjects. In ALS patients, the MEP gain and the SP duration decreased conspicuously with time. We conclude that use of the MEP gain improves detection of corticospinal dysfunction in ALS patients. Part of the SP shortening in ALS seems to reflect the reduced activation of cortical or spinal inhibitory networks by the abnormal corticospinal pathway. Muscle Nerve, 2006

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