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Brain. 2005 Jul;128(Pt 7):1728-36. Epub 2005 Apr 13.

The spectrum of Mobius syndrome: an electrophysiological study.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands. h.verzijl@neuro.umcn.nl


We studied the nature and extent of facial muscle innervation and the involvement of the motor and sensory long tracts in Möbius syndrome, in order to shed light on the pathophysiological mechanism of the syndrome. Standardized blink reflexes, direct responses of the facial nerves to the orbicularis oculi muscles and concentric needle electrode electromyography in orbicularis oculi and/or oris muscles were measured in 11 patients with Möbius syndrome, of whom six participated in MRI studies, all showing absent facial nerves. We performed motor- and somatosensory-evoked potentials in seven Möbius patients. We demonstrated three distinct patterns of abnormalities suggesting different sites of the primary lesion in different patients. (i) Presence of normal blink reflexes and facial compound motor action potentials, normal habituation tests, a reduced recruitment in the facial muscles and an aberrant 'blink reflex-like' response of the orbicularis oculi muscle upon stimulation of the facial nerve region, which suggests a supranuclear origin of the defect. (ii) Absent blink reflexes, absent direct responses of the facial nerves and absent motor activity on needle electromyography, indicating a defect at the facial nuclear level. However, the nuclear defect might mask an additional supranuclear defect, which cannot, therefore, be excluded in these patients. (iii) A disperse pattern of facial compound action potentials combined with long latencies that were recorded with concentric needle electrodes, indicating involvement of motor axons in the facial nerve, possibly secondary to nuclear involvement. An additional supranuclear defect cannot be excluded in these cases. All evoked potentials studied were normal. The electrophysiological findings of the facial muscles show a spectrum of disturbances varying in degree of severity and diverse in the extent of structures involved, in 11 Möbius patients. At one end of the spectrum are patients with completely immobile faces in whom electrophysiological testing shows no signs of involvement of the facial nuclei, nerves or muscles, suggestive of a dysfunction at the supranuclear level. At the other extreme of the spectrum are patients with complete absence of responses upon facial nerve stimulation and absence of motor unit activity. This is at least indicative of a defect at the facial nuclear level. While a supranuclear defect is compatible with the concept that Möbius syndrome is a developmental disorder of the lower brainstem, intact facial nuclei as part of the syndrome has not been suggested before. The findings corroborate the concept of the Möbius syndrome being a complex regional developmental disorder of the brainstem.

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