Studies on the aetiology and pathogenesis of motor neuron diseases: 1. Lathyrism: Clinical findings in established cases

A. C. Ludolph, J. Hugon, M. P. Dwived, H. H. Schaumburg, P. S. Spencer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

92 Scopus citations


Lathyrism is a toxic disease of the motor system constantly associated with primary consumption of the seed of Lathyrus sativus (chickling or grass pea). Neurological examination was performed on 38 affected subjects drawn from four regions of the Indian subcontinent endemic for lathyrism. All showed a consistent and largely symmetric pattern of neurological deficit similar to that displayed by 5 Europeans with longstanding lathyrism now living in Israel. Hallmarks of lathyrism include a pyramidal pattern of motor weakness combined with greatly increased tone in the thigh extensors and adductors and in the gastrocnemius muscles so that the more severely affected walk on the balls of their feet with a lurching scissoring gait. Extensor plantar responses are uniformly present in such cases, and the knee and ankle tendon reflexes are exaggerated and often clonic. Hoffmann signs and exaggerated biceps and/or triceps tendon jerks are also found in the most severely affected. Sensory signs are absent, although perverse sensations in the legs are frequently reported at the onset. Walking difficulties commonly begin suddenly but may also appear subacutely or insidiously. Some individuals experience partly reversible symptoms suggestive of a diffuse CNS excitation of somatic, motor and autonomic function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-165
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 1987


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

Cite this