Physiology and anatomy of possible oscillators in the central nervous system

Mov Disord. 1998;13 Suppl 3:24-8. doi: 10.1002/mds.870131304.


Pathologic tremors occur when the normal, continuous pattern of muscle activation is replaced by relatively synchronous bursting. This article discusses the possible roles of stretch reflex and central oscillators in producing tremor. The gain and conduction delay in some reflex arcs places the stretch reflex close to oscillation in some muscles during normal operation. Within the brain, cells in the thalamic relay nuclei and inferior olive contain a set of ionic conductancies in the cell membrane that can interact to produce oscillations in membrane potential. This tendency is exaggerated by hyperpolarizing or depolarizing the cell away from the normal resting potential. The activity of neighboring cells can be coupled (by electrotonic gap junctions in the olive and by recurrent axonal projections from the reticular nucleus in the thalamus), thus a large population of cells can oscillate together and exert a powerful rhythmic influence on motor output.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Electromyography / methods
  • Humans
  • Reflex, Stretch / physiology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Tremor / etiology*