Movement-related cortical potentials (MRCPs) were recorded from scalp electrodes during wrist flexion in 15 dystonic patients with bilateral (nine) or unilateral (six) circumscribed lesions in the striatum (eight), pallidum (six), or anterior thalamus (one). The results were compared with those of 10 age-matched healthy volunteers. The early (BP) and late (NS') MRCP components were assessed in terms of their gradients and distribution on the scalp in Cz, C3', and C4'. The gradients of both BP and NS' components were significantly flatter in the patients with bilateral lesions than in the control subjects. Also, the BP gradient was maximum at Cz, and the NS' component was contralaterally predominant in the control subjects but not in the patients. In patients with unilateral lesions, the gradients were flatter (p < 0.05) during movement of the dystonic wrist than during movement of the normal wrist. This difference was significant for BP and NS', regardless of the location of the electrodes. Also, the normal topographic predominance of BP at Cz and of contralateral NS' disappeared. The BP and NS' components of the MRCPs are thought to reflect preparatory activity in the supplementary motor area and the primary motor cortex before movement. Reduced BP and NS' gradients in patients with both bilateral and unilateral lesions of the basal ganglia, which project towards the supplementary motor area, are consistent with this hypothesis. The bilateral nature of these reductions suggests that both the ipsilateral and the contralateral motor cortex are involved in the genesis of the MRCPs and that the dystonia in these patients is associated with impaired motor preparation.
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