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Keywords:

  • tremor;
  • essential tremor;
  • physiologic tremor;
  • accelerometry;
  • electromyography

Abstract

We electrophysiologically examined the transition from physiologic tremor to essential tremor in people at risk for familial essential tremor. Two healthy people from different families with hereditary essential tremor were studied on multiple occasions. A 23-year-old man was studied in 1995, 1997, and 2004, and a 44-year-old woman was studied in 1993, 1995, 1997, and 2003. Hand acceleration and forearm electromyographic readings were measured with and without 300-g loading to determine the characteristic frequency-invariant motor unit entrainment of essential tremor. Clinically and electrophysiologically, the man and woman had normal tremor until the last examination, when both exhibited a fine tremulousness in the outstretched hands and frequency-invariant motor unit entrainment at 7.5 and 6.5 Hz, respectively. At no time did either patient exhibit a prominent 8–12 Hz component of physiologic tremor. Essential tremor in young adults may begin at frequencies less than 8–12 Hz, and this electrophysiologic abnormality is detectable when clinical examinations reveal only questionably abnormal tremor. More young adults at risk for essential tremor must be studied to determine whether initial frequencies less than 8 Hz are the rule or the exception. Nevertheless, the data from our 2 patients demonstrate that a prominent 8–12 Hz component of physiologic tremor does not always precede the development of essential tremor; therefore, the origins of essential tremor and the 8–12 Hz component of physiologic tremor may be different. © 2005 Movement Disorder Society