Reciprocal inhibition in writer's cramp



We studied the inhibition of median H-reflexes by conditioning stimuli on the radial nerve in 13 patients with writer's cramp, eight of the simple type and five of the dystonic type, and in 14 normal volunteers. The patients and controls were right-handed, and their right arms were studied. Asymptomatic left arms were also studied in nine of 13 patients. In the control group we identified three periods of inhibition, with maximum peaks at conditioning-test intervals of 0 ms (41 ± 17%), 20 ms (40 ± 13%), and 100 ms (36 ± 20%). In the patient group, the amplitudes of inhibition of these three periods in both arms were significantly less than those in the control group. However, there were no significant differences in the amplitudes of inhibition of these three periods between symptomatic and asymptomatic arms. There were also no significant differences between simple and dystonic writer's cramps. Our results indicate that the attenuation of reciprocal inhibition was present not only in symptomatic arms but also in asymptomatic arms of patients with writer's cramp. The defect of reciprocal inhibition in the asymptomatic hand has never been documented. We suggest that the preexistent electrophysiological abnormality may provide an explanation for the development of hand cramp after shifted writing.