Hemilingual spasm: Pathophysiology

Aage R. Møller, Leisha L. Osburn, Aaron A. Cohen-Gadol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


In the present offering, the authors provide evidence for the role of the hypoglossal motonucleus in causing a cranial nerve hyperactivity syndrome, namely hemilingual spasm. During a microvascular decompression operation to treat hemilingual spasm, transcranial stimulation elicited a delayed electromyographic (EMG) response from the tongue. This late volley of EMG activity occurred with a latency of approximately 40 ms, lasted approximately 50 ms, and disappeared when the offending vessel was displaced away from the exit zone of the hypoglossal nerve root along medulla oblongata. This late tongue EMG response resembles those found in facial muscles of the patients with hemifacial spasm (HFS). In HFS, electrical stimulation of a branch of facial nerve may elicit an EMG response with a latency of approximately 10 ms in muscles innervated by another branch of the nerve, followed by a variable volley of EMG activity that may last 100 ms or longer. This abnormal response, known as the lateral spread response, is a characteristic sign for hemifacial spasm that disappears after the offending vessel is moved off the facial nerve root. The results of the present study indicate that the EMG signs of hemilingual spasm are similar to those of HFS and that the tongue spasms are most likely caused by hyperactivity of the hypoglossal motonucleus. Based on the authors' knowledge, the above detailed electrophysiological findings related to hemilingual spasm have not been previously reported in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-79
Number of pages4
JournalNeuroscience Letters
Issue number2
StatePublished - Sep 11 2009


  • Cranial nerve hyperactivity
  • Hemilingual spasm
  • Hypoglossal motonucleus
  • Microvascular conflict

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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