Motor unit number estimates in idiopathic Parkinson's disease

J. N. Caviness, B. E. Smith, J. Clarke Stevens, C. H. Adler, R. J. Caselli, J. G. Hentz, M. S. Manfred, D. Muenter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


We previously reported changes in motor unit morphology in patients with Parkinson's disease (PD) using subjective and computerized quantitative electromyography. Now, we present data on motor unit number estimates (MUNE) to address the hypothesis of motor neuron dropout in PD. Twenty patients with PD and 20 age-matched control subjects were screened by clinical criteria and nerve conduction studies to exclude those with neuropathy. Motor unit number estimates in the extensor digitorum brevis and hypothenar group were assessed by three different MUNE techniques. The MUNE technique types included (1) the statistical method developed by Daube, (2) a threshold method, and (3) an F-wave method. The overall multivariate comparison for the six MUNE measurements was significantly lower for the patients than the controls (P=0.02). The only significant difference in the individual measures was found in the threshold MUNE method of the hypothenar group (P<0.05). These results are consistent with those of our previous work, and both support the hypothesis that mild motor neuron dropout occurs in idiopathic PD. However, MUNE methods characteristically have large standard deviations which make it difficult to detect small changes. Progress in decreasing the variance of MUNEs will facilitate their use in detecting small motor unit number changes in neurodegenerative disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-164
Number of pages4
JournalParkinsonism and Related Disorders
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2002


  • Electromyography
  • Motor unit morphology
  • Parkinson's disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Clinical Neurology


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