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Muscle Nerve. 2010 Feb;41(2):208-11. doi: 10.1002/mus.21495.

Sensitivity of electrophysiological tests for upper and lower motor neuron dysfunction in ALS: a six-month longitudinal study.

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Neuroscience Department and Institute of Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Lisbon, Santa Maria Hospital, Ave Egas Moniz, 1649 035, Lisbon, Portugal.


By following a group of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) patients longitudinally using lower motor neuron (LMN) and upper motor neuron (UMN) markers of dysfunction it may be possible to better understand the functional relationships between these motor systems in this disease. We used neurophysiological techniques to follow UMN and LMN dysfunction in a group of 28 patients with ALS, in comparison with the ALS functional rating scale (ALS-FRS) score and the forced vital capacity (FVC). We used motor unit number estimation (MUNE), compound muscle action potential (CMAP) amplitude, and the Neurophysiological Index (NI) to quantify the LMN disorder, and transcranial motor stimulation to study cortical motor threshold, motor-evoked response amplitude, central motor conduction time, and cortical silent period (CSP). The patients were studied shortly after diagnosis and then 6 months later, using both abductor digiti minimi muscles (ADM); ADM strength was initially >MRC 3 (Medical Research Council, UK). The NI and MUNE changed more than any other variable. CSP increased by about 30%, a change more marked than the slight increase observed in the cortical motor threshold (9%). The normal increase of CSP after acute muscle fatigue was preserved during disease progression. The CSP increase correlated with the MUNE rate of decay but not to the NI reduction, perhaps because NI includes F-wave frequency in itscalculation. There was no definite correlation between UMN and LMNdysfunction or progression, but there was a link between CSP and LMN changes in ALS. The CSP may be a useful variable in following UMN dysfunction in clinical practice and in clinical trials.

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