Intermittent cortical involvement in the preservation of tremor in essential tremor

Sarvi Sharifi*, Frauke Luft, Rens Verhagen, Tjitske Heida, Johannes D Speelman, Lo J. Bour, Anne-Fleur van Rootselaar

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Cortical involvement in essential tremor, an involuntary action tremor supposedly of subcortical origin, is uncertain. Conflicting results of corticomuscular coherence studies in essential tremor suggest an intermittent corticomuscular coupling. On the basis of the literature, we hypothesized that corticomuscular coupling is influenced by bilateral motor synchronization and “cognitive states” such as awareness of tremor. In the present study, we investigated 1) the existence of intermittent corticomuscular coherence (CMC) in essential tremor and 2) factors that influence CMC strength. In 18 essential tremor patients and 18 healthy controls, who mimicked tremor, we simultaneously recorded 64-channel EEG and 6-channel bipolar surface EMG from right and left wrist extensors and flexors. Right-sided (mimicked) hand tremor was recorded with and without a cognitive arithmetic task and with left-sided (mimicked) hand tremor. CMC values per task were compared within and between groups. Changes in CMC strength during tasks were calculated. Our main findings are 1) significant CMC around the (mimicked) tremor frequency across all tasks in both groups; 2) significant differences in CMC between unilateral tasks, with the highest values during the cognitive task only in the essential tremor group; and 3) significant fluctuations of CMC strength over time, independent of the tremor intensity, only in the essential tremor group. Our results suggest a limited role, and certainly not a continuous steering role, of sensorimotor cortical neurons in the generation of tremor. In clinical practice, these findings might help to standardize tremor registration and the interpretation of the analysis. New and Noteworthy The part of the motor cortex involved in essential tremor is uncertain. The current electrophysiological study is the first to assess corticomuscular coherence systematically. The study shows a dynamic nature of corticomuscular coherence and a possible influence of cognitive states. The results elucidate the involvement of the motor cortex in tremor and help interpret the varying results in the literature. In clinical practice, the findings may guide in standardizing tremor registration and its interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2628-2635
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 3 Nov 2017


  • Coherence
  • EEG
  • EMG
  • Essential tremor
  • Pathophysiology
  • Tremor registration


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