Tremor and Other Hyperkinetic Movements

Essential Tremor: A Neurodegenerative Disease?

Julian Benito-Leon

Abstract


Background: Essential tremor (ET) is one of the most common neurological disorders among adults, and is the most common of the many tremor disorders. It has classically been viewed as a benign monosymptomatic condition, yet over the past decade, a growing body of evidence indicates that ET is a progressive condition that is clinically heterogeneous, as it may be associated with a spectrum of clinical features, with both motor and non‐motor elements. In this review, I will describe the most significant emerging milestones in research which, when taken together, suggest that ET is a neurodegenerative condition.

Methods: A PubMed search conducted in June 2014 crossing the terms “essential tremor” (ET) and “neurodegenerative” yielded 122 entries, 20 of which included the term “neurodegenerative” in the article title. This was supplemented by articles in the author's files that pertained to this topic.

Results/Discussion: There is an open and active dialogue in the medical community as to whether ET is a neurodegenerative disease, with considerable evidence in favor of this. Specifically, ET is a progressive disorder of aging associated with neuronal loss (reduction in Purkinje cells) as well as other post‐mortem changes that occur in traditional neurodegenerative disorders. Along with this, advanced neuroimaging techniques are now demonstrating distinct structural changes, several of which are consistent with neuronal loss, in patients with ET. However, further longitudinal clinical and neuroimaging longitudinal studies to assess progression are required.


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