The pattern of electrical activity and the properties of individual motor unit potentials were analysed in the flexor muscles of the forearm of 15 patients with motor neurone disease and 15 patients with a lesion of the brachial plexus. The best diagnostic yield from the pattern of electrical activity was obtained when the force was 30% of maximum: The number of spikes (turns/15 s) was diminished in 70% of the patients; none showed the increase in turns characteristic of myopathy. The decrease in the number of turns was often associated with an increased incidence of long time intervals between turns and with an increased amplitude between turns. The mean duration of individual motor unit potentials was prolonged in 78% of the patients; none showed the decrease in mean duration characteristic of myopathy. Prolongation of the mean duration of motor unit potentials produced by cooling of normal muscle, led to a decrease in the number of turns. This suggested that the diminished number of turns in neurogenic involvement was due mainly to the prolonged duration of motor unit potentials.
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