Rethinking the neurophysiological concept of cortical myoclonus

Clin Neurophysiol. 2023 Dec:156:125-139. doi: 10.1016/j.clinph.2023.10.007. Epub 2023 Oct 31.


Cortical myoclonus is thought to result from abnormal electrical discharges arising in the sensorimotor cortex. Given the ease of recording of cortical discharges, electrophysiological features of cortical myoclonus have been better characterized than those of subcortical forms, and electrophysiological criteria for cortical myoclonus have been proposed. These include the presence of giant somatosensory evoked potentials, enhanced long-latency reflexes, electroencephalographic discharges time-locked to individual myoclonic jerks and significant cortico-muscular connectivity. Other features that are assumed to support the cortical origin of myoclonus are short-duration electromyographic bursts, the presence of both positive and negative myoclonus and cranial-caudal progression of the jerks. While these criteria are widely used in clinical practice and research settings, their application can be difficult in practice and, as a result, they are fulfilled only by a minority of patients. In this review we reappraise the evidence that led to the definition of the electrophysiological criteria of cortical myoclonus, highlighting possible methodological incongruencies and misconceptions. We believe that, at present, the diagnostic accuracy of cortical myoclonus can be increased only by combining observations from multiple tests, according to their pathophysiological rationale; nevertheless, larger studies are needed to standardise the methods, to resolve methodological issues, to establish the diagnostic criteria sensitivity and specificity and to develop further methods that might be useful to clarify the pathophysiology of myoclonus.

Keywords: C-reflex; Cortical myoclonus; Giant SEP; Jerk-lock back averaging; Myoclonus; Neurophysiology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Electroencephalography
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory / physiology
  • Humans
  • Myoclonus* / diagnosis
  • Neurophysiology
  • Reflex / physiology