Electromyographic (EMG) activity of orbicularis oculi and levator palpebrae muscles was recorded to study the origin of involuntary eyelid closure in 33 patients. The evoked blink reflex in all patients and in 23 controls was also studied. To examine the excitability of facial motoneurons and bulbar interneurons in individual patients and to compare the results with EMG findings, R1 and R2 recovery indices were calculated in all subjects, as the average of recovery values at 0.5, 0.3, and 0.21 second interstimulus intervals. Based on EMG patterns, the patients were divided into three subclasses: EMG subclass 1, 10 patients with involuntary discharges solely in orbicularis oculi muscle; EMG subclass 2, 20 patients with involuntary discharges in orbicularis oculi and either involuntary levator palpebrae inhibition or a disturbed reciprocal innervation between orbicularis oculi and levator palpebrae; EMG subclass 3, three patients who did not have blepharospasm, but had involuntary levator palpebrae inhibition in association with a basal ganglia disease. The total patient group showed an enhanced recovery of both R1 and R2 components compared with controls. Although 30 out of 33 patients had blepharospasm (EMG subclasses 1 and 2), R1 recovery index was normal in 64% and R2 recovery index was normal in 54%. Patients with an abnormal R2 recovery index had an abnormal R1 recovery index significantly more often. All patients from EMG subclass 1 had an abnormal R2 recovery index, whereas all patients from EMG subclass 3 had normal recovery indices for both R1 and R2 responses. Seventy five per cent of the patients from EMG subclass 2 had normal recovery indices. The results provide further evidence that physiologically blepharospasm is not a homogeneous disease entity, and indicate that different pathophysiological mechanisms at the suprasegmental, or segmental level, or both are involved.
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