Motor Neuron Involvement in Neuromyelitis Optica Spectrum Disorders (NMOSD)

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) has been used to study neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorders (NMOSD) in the past. Specifically, it is used to visualize the involvement of the spinal cord’s central gray matter. On the other hand, there has been no prior research that has utilized systemic electrophysiological tactics, especially when it comes to the role of motor neurons.

About the Study

To address this gap, a team of researchers performed a retrospective review. They looked at 59 NMOSD patients who had undergone nerve conduction studies (NCS) and concentric needle electromyography (EMG). All patients had been admitted to the Department of Neurology of Chinese PLA General Hospital from the beginning of 2016 until the end of 2019.

After the review, the researchers discovered the following results:

  • Using EMG data, 22.0% of participants were found to have acute and/or chronic denervation
    • 6.8% of patients had denervation discovered through EMG and confirmed through NCS
    • 3.4% did not show denervation on an EMG but came back with abnormal NCS results
  • 11.9% of participants experienced cranial or peripheral neuropathy as proven by NCS
  • 15.3% of participants had lower motor neuron involvement
  • 6.8% of participants had a lesion on their brainstem or spinal cord as found by an MRI

In the end, this data tells us that if NMOSD patients are suspected to have low involvement of the motor neurons, they should undergo EMG and NCS to confirm.


NMOSD is a rare disorder that is characterized by episodes of inflammation in the spinal cord and optic nerve. These attacks cause symptoms such as eye pain, vision loss, diminished control of the bowel and bladder, sensory loss, changes in deep tendon reflexes, paralysis of the lower limbs, headaches, stiffness, pain in the limbs and/or back, and impact to some or all of the motor, sensory, and autonomic functions. Episodes of these symptoms are then followed by periods of remission.

Medical professionals are unsure as to what exactly causes this condition, but they do know that it is an autoimmune disorder. This means that the immune system mistakenly attacks its own body rather than foreign invaders. In terms of treatment, doctors will work to treat the symptoms that appear during an attack, and there are also three FDA-approved treatments for NMOSD: Enspryng, Soliris, and Uplinza.

You can find the study here.

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