Peripheral neurophysiological basis of sensorimotor deficits in individuals with essential tremor

Essential tremor (ET) is a neurological disorder characterized by shaking of the hands (and sometimes other parts of the body) that occurs with voluntary movement. Often mistaken for Parkinson’s disease, it is the most common tremor disorder. Approximately 75 per cent of people living with ET experience some limitation in their activities, and these limitations typically get worse with increasing age. Therapies for essential tremor focus on tremor reducing medications, but effective treatments remain limited. Consequently, new insights into disease mechanisms are needed to guide the development of more effective therapies. The origins of essential tremor are believed to involve abnormal rhythmic activity in the brain, which then travels down to the peripheral nervous system. However, the specific neural pathways that the tremor travels, as well as how ET influences the recruitment of muscles for movement, remains unclear. Also unknown is the impact of tremor on sensory receptors found within skeletal muscles, which provide the sense of position and movement of the limbs. Dr. Martin Héroux is conducting studies on British Columbians with ET to determine how their muscles and sensory receptors are affected by abnormal rhythmic activities of essential tremor. He hopes these studies will increase our knowledge of the neural mechanisms involved in the generation of essential tremor and provide a better understanding of the motor-sensory deficits associated with tremor disorders. Ultimately, this knowledge could contribute to the development of more effective anti-tremor therapies.