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Myoclonic-like Finger Microdisplacements in Patients with Cerebellar Deficits

     Anne Beuter, John G Milton, Christiane Labrie and Deborah Black

Abstract:   Background: Here we assess the ability of patients with cerebellar disease to execute a simple visually-guided movement task involving tracking of a target with the index finger. Methods: Spontaneous microdisplacements in index finger position are compared in patients with cerebellar deficits (ischemia [n = 3], multiple sclerosis [n = 3], degenerative cerebellar disease [n = 3]) and age-matched healthy subjects. Subjects were required to maintain a constant finger position relative to a stationary baseline displayed on an oscilloscope. Results: Unusual transient abrupt movements (saccadic or myoclonic-like) directed with or against gravity were seen in patients whose neurological deficits were the most severe (7/9 patients). These abrupt myoclonic-like movements occurred independently of visual input, were not associated with clinically observable myoclonus, and were not detected previously in patients with Parkinson's disease. These abrupt myoclonic-like movements were not associated with abnormalities in either physiological tremor, or oscillations in finger microdisplacements induced by insertion of a delay (300-1400 ms) into the visual feedback of this finger "holding" experiment. An unexpected finding is that the results obtained for patients with cerebellar deficits by insertion of an experimental delay are not significantly different from those obtained with their age-matched controls. Conclusions: These observations suggest that abrupt myoclonic-like movements are a characteristic abnormality of patients with a variety of cerebellar deficits and emphasize the value of this simple motor tracking task for characterizing movement disorders.

Can. J. Neurol. Sci. 1995; 22: 144-152


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