Motor responses evoked by magnetic brain stimulation in psychogenic limb weakness: diagnostic value and limitations

J Neurol. 1992 May;239(5):251-5. doi: 10.1007/BF00810346.


The latencies and amplitudes of responses evoked by magnetic brain stimulation (magnetic evoked potentials, MEP) in the first dorsal interosseus and the anterior tibial (TA) muscles were investigated in 15 patients with psychogenic limb weakness and in 50 patients with limb weakness due to established organic central nervous system disease. Of the patients with psychogenic limb weakness, 3 presented with upper limb monopareses, 2 with lower limb monoparesis, 4 with hemipareses, 4 with parapareses and 2 with paraparesis. All patients with psychogenic weakness had MEP in arm and leg muscles with latencies within the normal range. MEP amplitudes were also normal except for 1 patient in whom the response amplitude in the TA of the plegic limb was reduced. In patients with limb weakness due to established organic disease, MEP were frequently but not invariably abnormal. In patients with plegic (i.e. completely paretic, MRC grade 0) muscles due to organic disease, MEP always were clearly abnormal. Normal MEP were sometimes elicited from paretic muscles, more commonly in association with cerebral hemisphere lesions than with spinal lesions. We conclude that psychogenic limb weakness is associated with normal MEP. However, normal MEP in mildly paretic muscles do not definitely exclude organic pathology.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Extremities / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetics*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Somatoform Disorders / physiopathology*