A clinical test for the alcohol sensitivity of essential tremor


  • Karina Knudsen MD,

  • Delia Lorenz MD,

  • Günther Deuschl MD, PhD

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Neurology, Christian-Albrechts-University, Kiel, Germany
    • Department of Neurology, Universitätsklinikum Schleswig-Holstein, Campus Kiel, Christian-Albrechts-University, Arnold-Heller-Str. 3, Haus 41, 24105 Kiel, Germany
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  • Relevant conflicts of interest/financial disclosures: Nothing to report.

  • Full financial disclosures and author roles may be found in the online version of this article.



The objective of the study was to develop a simple diagnostic test for alcohol sensitivity of essential tremor patients. Here we describe the controlled measurements of tremor severity after alcohol ingestion and the practicability of using it as a home test.


Ten patients were tested for alcohol sensitivity under controlled conditions in the laboratory (blood alcohol, quantitative tremor recordings, modified Fahn scale, visual analog scale, Archimedes spirals), and 15 patients were instructed to perform an alcohol test at home (visual analog scale, Archimedes spirals) following an adapted dosage of alcohol.


The time course of the antitremor effect showed significant improvement of up to 50% in both groups for all the outcome parameters. Tremor deteriorated after 3 hours. A quarter of the patients noticed the alcohol effect for the first time during the test.


Alcohol is an effective drug for essential tremor. Its effect is only short-lived and exhibits a rebound after > 3 hours and the next morning. We propose this essential tremor home test as a diagnostic tool to confirm the alcohol sensitivity of essential tremor. © 2011 Movement Disorder Society