Motor neuron disease: Usefulness of transcranial magnetic stimulation in improving the diagnosis

G. Miscio, F. Pisano, G. Mora, L. Mazzini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Clinical upper motor neuron (UMN) involvement is sometimes difficult to detect in motor neuron disease (MND). For this mason we performed transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to find out whether this technique may be useful in revealing signs of pyramidal tract impairment. Fifty-five MND patients, clinically divided into 22 amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), 18 ALS with probable UMN signs (ALS-PUMNS), 10 pure lower motor neuron syndrome (LMNS), and 5 progressive bulbar palsy (PBP), underwent standard TMS, recording from abductor digiti minimi and flexor allucis muscles. Prolongation of cortical motor evoked potential (MEP) latency and central conduction time (CCT) and absent MEP were considered as pathologic. ALS- PUMNS and LMNS patients were clinically reclassified after 1 year. TMS was abnormal in 95.4% of ALS, 72.2% of ALS-PUMNS, 50% of LMNS and 20% of PBP. Correlations between TMS parameters and both clinical signs of UMN involvement and disease severity were highly significant. TMS showed a high sensitivity, but lacked specificity. After 1 year, 11 patients among the ALS- PUMNS group were clinically reclassified as definite ALS: all of them had shown TMS abnormalities at the first examination. In conclusion, TMS provides important diagnostic information for an early prediction of ALS in those MND patients presenting with clinically equivocal UMN impairment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)975-981
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 1 1999


  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
  • Central conduction time
  • Magnetic stimulation
  • Motor neuron disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Neurology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Physiology (medical)


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