Oculopalatal tremor: variations on a theme by Guillain and Mollaret

Eur Neurol. 2014;72(3-4):144-9. doi: 10.1159/000360531. Epub 2014 Aug 16.


Background: Oculopalatal tremor (OPT) is a delayed complication of a brainstem lesion, characterized by involuntary contractions of the soft palate associated with a synchronized ocular pendular nystagmus. MRI reveals inferior olivary nucleus hypersignal/hypertrophy (IONH). Our objective was to refine the clinical profile of patients with OPT and to report a few oddities in both presentation and evolution.

Methods: We performed a retrospective study of patients diagnosed with OPT and a literature search.

Results: From our database, we retrieved 5 men and 3 women with a diagnosis of OPT. Eighty-two patients with OPT were retrieved from the literature and were compiled with our series. The average age was 54 years and there was a male predominance. Brainstem vascular lesion was the most common etiology (80%). Prominent vertical pendular nystagmus was found in 90%. Dissociated nystagmus was mostly associated to unilateral contralateral IONH on MRI, while bilateral symmetrical nystagmus was due to a bilateral IONH in the majority of cases. Three oddities were found amongst our 8 patients: prominent nystagmus ipsilateral to IONH; disappearance of IONH on MRI despite persisting nystagmus, and asymptomatic OPT.

Conclusion: The clinical profile of OPT is rather stereotyped. Rarely do patients deviate from the classical description of OPT.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brain Stem / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nystagmus, Pathologic / etiology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tremor / complications*
  • Tremor / etiology
  • Tremor / pathology