Recordings were made from facial muscles and the facial nerve near its entrance into the brain stem in patients with hemifacial spasm (HFS). The purpose of this study was to determine if the synkinesis commonly seen in patients with HFS could be linked to ephaptic transmission at the presumed site of the lesion (at the root entry zone (REZ) of the facial nerve). When the mandibular branch of the facial nerve was electrically stimulated, a response could be recorded from the orbicularis oculi muscles during the operation. The latency of the earliest response was 11.03 +/- 0.66 msec (mean response of seven patients +/- standard deviation (SD]. With equivalent stimulation a response could also be recorded from the facial nerve near the REZ; the latency of this response was 3.87 +/- 0.36 msec. Stimulation of the facial nerve at the same location yielded a response from the orbicularis oculi muscle, with a latency of 4.65 +/- 0.25 msec. The latency of the earliest response from the orbicularis oculi muscle to stimulation of the marginal mandibular branch of the facial nerve (11.3 msec) is thus larger than the sum of the conduction times from the points of stimulation of the marginal mandibular branch to the REZ of the facial nerve and from the REZ of the facial nerve to the orbicularis oculi muscle (8.52 +/- 0.38 msec). It is therefore regarded as unlikely that the earliest response of the orbicularis oculi muscle to stimulation of the mandibular branch of the facial nerve is a result of "crosstalk" in the facial nerve at a location near the REZ, and it seems more likely that HFS caused by injury of the facial nerve is a result of reverberant activity in the facial motonucleus, possibly caused by mechanisms that are similar to kindling.