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Quantitative studies of lower motor neuron degeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis: evidence for exponential decay of motor unit numbers and greatest rate of loss at the site of onset

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

  • Fusun Baumann
  • Robert Henderson
  • Gareth Ridall
  • Anthony Pettitt
  • Pam McCombe
Journal publication date10/2012
JournalClinical Neurophysiology
Journal number10
Volume123
Number of pages7
Pages2092–2098
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Objective
To use our Bayesian method of motor unit number estimation (MUNE) to evaluate lower motor neuron degeneration in ALS.

Methods
In subjects with ALS we performed serial MUNE studies. We examined the repeatability of the test and then determined whether the loss of MUs was fitted by an exponential or Weibull distribution.

Results
The decline in motor unit (MU) numbers was well-fitted by an exponential decay curve. We calculated the half life of MUs in the abductor digiti minimi (ADM), abductor pollicis brevis (APB) and/or extensor digitorum brevis (EDB) muscles. The mean half life of the MUs of ADM muscle was greater than those of the APB or EDB muscles. The half-life of MUs was less in the ADM muscle of subjects with upper limb than in those with lower limb onset.

Conclusions
The rate of loss of lower motor neurons in ALS is exponential, the motor units of the APB decay more quickly than those of the ADM muscle and the rate of loss of motor units is greater at the site of onset of disease.

Significance
This shows that the Bayesian MUNE method is useful in following the course and exploring the clinical features of ALS.