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Article
July 1992

Peripheral Mechanical Loading and the Mechanism of the Tremor of Chronic Alcoholism

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurology and The Burke Rehabilitation Center, Cornell University Medical College, White Plains, NY (Dr Aisen), the Department of Neurology, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Brockton, Mass (Dr Romero), and the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Mass (Drs Adelstein and Rosen and Ms Morris).

Arch Neurol. 1992;49(7):740-742. doi:10.1001/archneur.1992.00530310088016
Abstract

• The tremor of chronic alcoholism, although clinically similar to essential tremor, has been considered a distinct syndrome. Its underlying mechanism was analyzed in five patients (none in the acute stages of alcohol withdrawal) hospitalized in an alcohol detoxification program. All five patients performed tracking tasks in which they pursued a linearly moving "target" light with a response light that they controlled by flexion-extension activity of the wrist. Stationary and dynamic targets were used with both isometric and unconstrained wrist mechanical interfaces. Frequency, torque, and displacement tremor characteristics were examined under varying inertial loading or isometric voluntary torque conditions. Two simultaneous tremor components were present in all patients: a prominent 4- to 7-Hz low-frequency peak and a smaller-amplitude 9.4- to 9.6-Hz high-frequency peak. As the inertia of the hand was augmented during unconstrained tasks, the low-frequency peak decreased, while the high-frequency peak was unaffected. As required voluntary effort was increased during isometric testing, the amplitude of the low-frequency peak increased. These findings suggest that the low-frequency peak represents the significant pathologic component of the tremor of chronic alcoholism and that it has a biomechanical reflex mechanism similar to that of the lower-amplitude normal physiologic tremor.

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