Research Article| Volume 324, ISSUE 1-2, P136-139, January 15, 2013

Electrophysiological features of lower motor neuron involvement in progressive supranuclear palsy

Published:November 12, 2012DOI:



      Abnormalities of the spinal cord were considered uncommon in progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP), and therefore spinal symptoms were not included among PSP characteristic features. However there have been some neuropathological reports of spinal cord lesions in patients with PSP. The aim of our study was to find out if the possible lower motor neuron involvement in PSP is reflected by electromyographic (EMG) and/or electroneurographic (ENG) abnormalities.


      24 patients with clinically probable PSP (mean age 67.5 yrs; 66% males) were included in the study. The control group for ENG studies consisted 25 age matched healthy volunteers.


      Nerve conduction studies in the ulnar, peroneal and sural nerves and EMG of the first interosseus dorsal and tibial anterior muscles were performed.


      The only ENG abnormality observed was decreased compound muscle action potential (CMAP) and sensory nerve action potential (SNAP) amplitudes in the ulnar nerve. Such decrease was registered in 8.3% and 20% of PSP patients respectively. There was no significant difference between the values of ENG parameters between PSP patients and the control group. In EMG abnormalities suggesting chronic reinnervation were recorded in the first interosseous dorsal (FID) muscle in 45.8%, and in the tibialis anterior (TA) muscle in 37.5% of PSP patients. A significant correlation was found between the age of PSP patients and their mean motor unit potential (MUP) amplitude in TA muscle (p=0.04) and also between the age of onset and MUP amplitude in both, the TA and FID muscles (p=0.026 and p=0.03 respectively).


      In PSP, neurogenic EMG abnormalities in skeletal muscles are present in nearly half the patients suggesting a loss of motor neurons in the anterior horns of the spinal cord which is in line with our histopathological findings. In contrast, electrophysiological signs of neuropathy in peripheral nerves in PSP are very rare. Concluding, although PSP is characterized by the pathological process in specific basal ganglia and brainstem areas, our electromyographic study suggests the need for broadening the spectrum of PSP for lower motor neurons degeneration.


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