Periodic leg movements of sleep (nocturnal myoclonus): an electrophysiological study

Ann Neurol. 1986 Feb;19(2):168-73. doi: 10.1002/ana.410190210.


Six patients with periodic leg movements of sleep (PLMS) were studied electrophysiologically. All patients had normal results on routine nerve conduction studies and electromyography. In 5 patients the blink reflex consisted of three components, and in 1 patient it consisted of four components, with two components being normal. The second component of their blink reflex did not habituate. Other abnormalities included long-latency responses in the extremities in 2 patients, release of H-reflexes from flexor hallucis brevis muscle in 2 patients, and an Hmax/Mmax ratio of 98% in 2 patients. One patient's median nerve somatosensory-evoked response had a markedly enlarged P22 wave. These electrophysiological abnormalities suggest a disorder of the central nervous system producing increased excitability of segmental reflexes. To produce increased excitability of both brainstem and spinal cord reflexes, the disorder must be operative at the pontine level or rostral to it. Since long-latency components of blink reflexes occurred in all our patients, this may be a helpful diagnostic test when PLMS is suspected.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Blinking
  • Electromyography
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myoclonus / physiopathology*
  • Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Neural Conduction
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Reflex, Abnormal
  • Reflex, Monosynaptic
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / physiopathology*