Inferior Olivary nucleus degeneration does not lessen tremor in essential tremor

Elan D. Louis, Daniel Trujillo Diaz, Sheng Han Kuo, Shi Rui Gan, Etty P. Cortes, Jean Paul G. Vonsattel, Phyllis L. Faust

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: In traditional models of essential tremor, the inferior olivary nucleus was posited to play a central role as the pacemaker for the tremor. However, recent data call this disease model into question. Case presentation: Our patient had progressive, long-standing, familial essential tremor. Upper limb tremor began at age 10 and worsened over time. It continued to worsen during the nine-year period he was enrolled in our brain donation program (age 85 - 94 years), during which time the tremor moved from the moderate to severe range on examination. On postmortem examination at age 94, there were degenerative changes in the cerebellar cortex, as have been described in the essential tremor literature. Additionally, there was marked degeneration of the inferior olivary nucleus, which was presumed to be of more recent onset. Such degeneration has not been previously described in essential tremor postmortems. Despite the presence of this degeneration, the patient's tremor not only persisted but it continued to worsen during the final decade of his life. Conclusions: Although the pathophysiology of essential tremor is not completely understood, evidence such as this suggests that the inferior olivary nucleus does not play a critical role in the generation of tremor in these patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1
JournalCerebellum and Ataxias
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 15 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebellum
  • Essential tremor
  • Inferior olivary nucleus
  • Neurodegenerative
  • Pathology
  • Purkinje cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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