Needle electromyography (EMG) and determining the motor evoked potential (MEP) of the genioglossus (tongue) are difficult to perform in evaluation of the craniobulbar region in patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Needle EMG and MEP determination in the upper trapezius were carried out in 17 consecutive ALS patients. The needle EMG parameters recorded included abnormal spontaneous activity and motor unit action potential morphology. An upper motor neuron lesion was presumed when either response to cortical stimulation was absent, or the central conduction time was delayed (>mean + 2 SD). Of the 12 patients with limb-onset ALS, using needle EMG, 11 were found to have abnormalities in the upper trapezius, and only five in the tongue. Three of the six patients with isolated limb involvement had abnormal MEP findings. In conclusion, electrophysiological studies of the upper trapezius are useful in ALS patients without bulbar symptoms.