Ocular myasthenia revisited: insights from pseudo-internuclear ophthalmoplegia

J Neurol. 2007 Nov;254(11):1569-74. doi: 10.1007/s00415-007-0591-y. Epub 2007 Aug 27.


Ocular myasthenia can mimic central disorders of eye movements. We compared horizontal saccades in two patients with myasthenia gravis who presented as pseudo-internuclear ophthalmoplegia (pseudo-INO), two patients with true INO due to multiple sclerosis (MS), and five healthy subjects. In myasthenics, peak velocity of horizontal saccades was similar to, or greater than, controls; in MS patients, adducting saccades were slower than controls. Differences between the peak velocity of abducting and adducting eyes for each saccade were similar to controls for myasthenic pseudo-INO, but greater than controls for true INO. Using the technique of phase-plane analysis, in which eye velocity is plotted against eye position, we found that initial components of abducting and adducting saccades in the myasthenics were as conjugate as controls, even though later components of myasthenic saccades were highly and variably disjunctive. Conversely, phase planes of saccades in true INO showed disjunctive early components of abducting and adducting saccades. Two hypotheses have been offered to account for preservation of fast saccades despite reduced range of eye movements in ocular myasthenia. The first is intrasaccadic neuromuscular fatigue, which is variable over time. Our finding that initial components of saccades were consistently conjugate in the myasthenics gives support to a second hypothesis: selective sparing of pale global fibers, which are important for generating highspeed eye movements, and which are unique amongst extraocular fibers in possessing well developed synaptic folding.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electrooculography / methods
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multiple Sclerosis / complications
  • Myasthenia Gravis / complications*
  • Myasthenia Gravis / diagnosis
  • Ocular Motility Disorders / etiology*
  • Oculomotor Muscles / physiopathology