Journal of Neurology

, Volume 246, Supplement 3, pp III22–III26 | Cite as

Riluzole does not have an acute effect on motor thresholds and the intracortical excitability in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

  • Martin Sommer
  • Frithjof Tergau
  • Stephan Wischer
  • Carl -D. Reimers
  • Wolfgang Beuche
  • Walter Paulus


Intracortical excitability in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is impaired. The effectiveness of the glutamate antagonist riluzole (Rilutek®, Rhône-Poulenc Rorer) in ALS has been shown in clinical studies. In healthy subjects it modifies intracortical excitability in a frequently used double-stimulus paradigm of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). Under riluzole intracortical inhibition is enhanced in healthy individuals, although not always significantly, whereas intracortical facilitation has been described as reduced [10, 11]. We wanted to find out whether riluzole affects and potentially rebalances impaired intracortical excitability in ALS. We, therefore, enrolled 13 patients with clinically and electromyographically confirmed ALS into this study. Five patients had to be excluded because motor thresholds were too high to get reliable motor evoked potentials (MEPs). In the remaining 8 patients, mean age was 59.9±11.9 years (± standard deviation) and mean symptom duration 9.6±2.5 months. Intracortical excitability was assessed before and 1.5 hours after the first intake of a loading dose of 100 mg of riluzole using a conventional paired-pulse TMS paradigm with interstimulus intervals (ISI) ranging from 1–30 ms and intensities adjusted to yield MEPs of 1.0 mV for test pulses and of 90% active motor threshold for conditioning pulses. Patients’ baseline results were compared to those of 9 age-matched, healthy control subjects. Before drug intake, motor thresholds did not differ between groups, but there was significantly less intracortical inhibition in the ALS patient group. Riluzole intake did not significantly alter motor thresholds or intacortical excitability in the ALS patients. We conclude that riluzole does not immediately influence intracortical excitability in ALS. Our results are in contrast to the findings of Stefan et al (1998) [14] where a partial normalization of intracortical inhibition in ALS was observed after at least 5 days of drug intake. The difference between that study and our result may indicate a delayed onset of riluzole’s influence on intracortical excitability.

Key words

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis Transcranial magnetic stimulation Intracortical excitability Riluzole 


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Copyright information

© Steinkopff Verlag 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Sommer
    • 1
  • Frithjof Tergau
    • 1
  • Stephan Wischer
    • 1
  • Carl -D. Reimers
    • 1
  • Wolfgang Beuche
    • 1
  • Walter Paulus
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Clinical Neurophysiology & NeurologyUniversity of GoettingenGoettingenGermany

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