Cortical reflex myoclonus. A study of the relationship between giant somatosensory evoked potentials and motor excitability

J Clin Neurophysiol. 1991 Jan;8(1):95-101. doi: 10.1097/00004691-199101000-00012.


The excitability cycles of the N1-P1-N2 waveforms of the scalp-recorded somatosensory evoked potential (SEP) and of the long-latency, cortical loop reflex electromyographic (EMG) activity were studied in two patients with cortical reflex myoclonus. Long-latency cortical loop reflex EMG activity in the thenar muscles and giant SEPs occurred following median nerve stimulation. The excitability cycle of the EMG paralleled that of the SEP. There was an initial period of attenuation of SEP and EMG amplitude at interstimulus intervals (ISIs) of less than 40 ms followed by a period of amplitude enhancement at an ISI of up to 200 ms followed by a second period of attenuation. The excitability cycle is abnormal and the SEP and EMG amplitude changes parallel each other. It is therefore likely that a common mechanism determines the abnormal excitability cycle. The substrate for this mechanism is unknown and may be diffuse or restricted. Oral 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) in therapeutic doses altered the SEP excitability cycle. 5-HTP did not attenuate the giant SEPs but did attenuate the long-latency reflex EMG. Therefore, 5-HTP's site of action may be different from the substrate underlying the mechanism that results in the giant SEPs. Additionally, spinal latency reflex EMG activity occurred following treatment with 5-HTP but was absent when the patient discontinued 5-HTP.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan / administration & dosage
  • Adult
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electromyography / drug effects
  • Epilepsies, Myoclonic / drug therapy
  • Epilepsies, Myoclonic / physiopathology*
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / drug effects
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Median Nerve / physiopathology
  • Motor Neurons / drug effects
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Muscles / innervation*
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Reaction Time / drug effects
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reflex / drug effects
  • Reflex / physiology*


  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan