With the use of a computer-controlled torque motor, experiments were carried out on 11 patients with essential tremor and 13 with parkinsonian tremor to determine the effect of mechanical displacements at the wrist joint on the established pattern of tremor. Analysis of the timing of tremor bursts in electromyographic recordings before and following the stimuli revealed that the phase of essential tremor could be readily reset by external perturbations. In the majority of the parkinsonian patients the same type of stimuli had very little effect on the pattern of tremor. Differences between predicted and actual times of occurrence of tremor bursts following the stimuli were used to calculate a normalized resetting index, with 0 representing no resetting and 1, complete resetting. For the patients with essential tremor the mean resetting index was 0.64 +/- 0.14 (SD); for the parkinsonian patients the generation of essential tremor. Reflex mechanisms are less important in parkinsonian tremor, which is more likely dependent on oscillations originating in the central nervous system.