Blink reflex in patients with an ischaemic lesion of the brain-stem verified by MRI

J Neurol. 1993 Nov;241(1):37-44. doi: 10.1007/BF00870670.


The electrically elicited blink reflex was investigated in 25 patients with ischaemic lesions of the pons or the medulla oblongata. Only patients with a lesion on MRI appropriate to the clinical syndrome were included. Twenty patients had an infarction of the pons, bilateral in 5. Additional 5 patients had an infarction of the dorsolateral medulla oblongata. Patients with hemispheric lesions were excluded. Four of the 5 patients with Wallenberg's syndrome showed delayed R2 components to stimulation ipsilateral to the lesion. Additional loss of the ipsilateral R1 component was observed in 1 patient. Fifteen of the 20 patients with pontine infarctions had pathological blink reflexes. All 6 patients with a unilateral pons lesion and an abnormality of R1 had this abnormality on the side contralateral to the lesion. In 3 cases with bilateral pontine infarction R1 was abnormal on one side or on either side. Of 11 patients with a normal R1, 6 had isolated abnormalities of R2 without consistent correlation to the side of the lesion. We conclude that abnormalities of the blink reflex are of minor localizing value in pontine infarction. This may be explained by the fact that a pontine infarction affects either the reflex arch itself or descending pathways that have a modulating influence on the reflex arch. Infarctions of the medulla oblongata, however, have characteristic abnormalities that have already been described.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blinking*
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology
  • Brain Ischemia / physiopathology*
  • Brain Stem / blood supply*
  • Brain Stem / pathology
  • Cerebral Infarction / pathology
  • Cerebral Infarction / physiopathology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Female
  • Hemiplegia / etiology
  • Humans
  • Lateral Medullary Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Medulla Oblongata / blood supply
  • Medulla Oblongata / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Pons / blood supply
  • Pons / pathology
  • Reflex, Abnormal*