The extent and time course of motoneuron involvement in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

Muscle Nerve. 1991 May;14(5):416-21. doi: 10.1002/mus.880140506.


The numbers and relative sizes of motor units have been estimated in 373 muscles of 123 patients with ALS: 74 of the muscles were examined on more than one occasion. The median duration between the onset of symptoms and the initial examination was 12 months; by this time, approximately 90% of the tested muscles showed losses of motor units. The evoked motor unit potentials continued to enlarge in most, but not all, muscles as the disease progressed. Once a muscle became affected by the disease process, the average time-course was such that the motor unit population halved in each 6-month period of the first year and diminished more slowly thereafter. A small proportion of patients was encountered in whom the disease progressed much more slowly and there were occasional large fluctuations in the motor unit estimates suggestive of reversible motoneuron dysfunction.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Neurons / pathology*