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Clin Neurophysiol. 2007 Apr;118(4):815-23. Epub 2007 Feb 20.

Assessment of cortico-spinal tract impairment in multiple system atrophy using transcranial magnetic stimulation.

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  • 1Pôle des Neurosciences Cliniques, Fédération de Neurologie, CHU Timone, 264 rue Saint-Pierre, 13005 Marseille, France.



Among Parkinsonian syndromes, pyramidal signs suggesting cortico-spinal impairment are a hallmark of multiple system atrophy (MSA). Although it is crucial to diagnose correctly this disease to choose the appropriate treatment, the available diagnostic criteria lack sensitivity. Cortical excitability patterns assessed by transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) do not differentiate Parkinsonian disorders. TMS using triple stimulation technique (TST) accurately detects cortico-spinal impairment. We hypothesized that this technique could detect such impairment in MSA patients.


The TST was applied along with single and paired-pulse TMS to 31 patients fulfilling the diagnostic criteria for MSA-P (n=10), MSA-C (n=4), progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP; n=6) and Idiopathic Parkinson's disease (IPD; n=11) and 11 control subjects.


Single and paired-pulse TMS patterns did not differ between any patient group. The TST pattern was abnormal in five MSA-P, one MSA-C and one PSP patients but not in IPD patients or controls. The mean TST ratio for MSA-P (86.6%) was significantly different from IPD (99.1%; p<0.05) whereas ratios for MSA-C (92.1%) and PSP (93.3%) were not different from IPD or controls (99.5%).


These results suggest that TST is effective to assess cortico-spinal impairment in MSA.


TST might be useful for the diagnosis of atypical Parkinsonism.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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