Motor unit changes in sporadic idiopathic Parkinson's disease

John N. Caviness, Benn E. Smith, J. Clarke Stevens, Charles H. Adler, Richard J. Caselli, Cindy A. Reiners, Joseph G. Hentz, Manfred D. Muenter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


We studied motor unit changes in 20 patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) and 20 age-matched control subjects to look for evidence of motorneuron degeneration in sporadic idiopathic PD. Patients and control subjects were screened by clinical criteria and nerve conduction studies to exclude those with peripheral neuropathic processes. Changes in motor unit morphology were investigated with subjective and computerized quantitative electromyography (QEMG) of the anterior tibialis (AT) and first dorsal interosseous. Multivariate comparisons showed a significant difference in the QEMG analysis for motor unit enlargement in patients with PD versus control subjects. Some of the univariate comparisons for bath the subjective and QEMG analyses of the AT were also significant. These results demonstrate that motorneuron drop-out with reinnervation occurs in sporadic idiopathic PD. In summary, our findings provide evidence that clinically silent motorneuron disease occurs in typical cases of sporadic idiopathic PD, suggesting that it may be a normal part of the pathologic picture of PD. Any hypothesis concerning the pathogenic mechanism of PD would need to take into account such a finding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-243
Number of pages6
JournalMovement Disorders
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2000


  • Electromyography
  • Motorneuron disease
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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