Eight patients with a homogeneous syndrome of progressive symmetric spinobulbar spasticity were studied. Clinical features were limited to those associated with dysfunction of the descending motor tracts and included spastic quadriparesis, pseudobulbar affect, spastic dysarthria, hyper-reflexia and bilateral Babinski signs. Lower motor neuron findings were absent and higher cognitive function preserved. Median age of onset was 50.5 yrs and median disease duration was 19 yrs. Neuropathologic features (including morphometric analysis) in the single autopsied case confirmed the selective involvement of the motor cortex. There was complete absence of Betz cells from layer 5 of the precentral cortex and the remaining pyramidal cells were significantly smaller than those seen in normal controls. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) revealed atrophy of the precentral gyrus and positron emission tomography (PET) scans showed diminished glucose [18F]fluorodeoxyglucose uptake in the pericentral cortex. Magnetic motor cortex stimulation revealed markedly prolonged central motor conduction times. The literature is reviewed and diagnostic criteria for primary lateral sclerosis based on clinical, laboratory and imaging features are proposed.