Effect of Alcohol on Tremors

The pathophysiology and anatomical basis of most tremors remains poorly understood. One particular theory of essential tremor, the olivary hypothesis, has gained support from various studies. These studies point to the olivary nucleus as possible central rhythm generator. Cells in the olivary nucleus show spontaneous rhythmic discharges that can be suppressed by alcohol. Since alcohol is known to suppress tremor in some patients with essential tremor, one can theorize that it is through its effect on the olivary nucleus; that is, the inferior olive is the generator of the tremor. Given this assumption, we intend to study the effect of alcohol on three different kinds of tremor: the 8-12 Hz component of physiological tremor, symptomatic palatal tremor and essential palatal tremor. Our hypothesis is that the central generator of each of these types of tremor lies in the inferior olive and that the ingestion of alcohol should reduce the amplitude of the tremor, similar to the effect of alcohol seen in essential tremor.

INCLUSION CRITERIA: A total of 20 subjects will be enrolled in the study. 10 normal subjects will be enrolled in the study. All will have an 8-12 Hz component of physiologic tremor as determined by neurophysiologic studies. Patients will have a prominent 8-12 Hz spike on accelerometry recordings that is associated with an EMG spike at the same frequency. 5 patients with essential palatal tremor and 5 patients with symptomatic palatal tremor will be included. All participants must be a minimum of 21 years of age. EXCLUSION CRITERIA: The presence of any medical condition, such as liver disease, history or family history of alcoholism, that can reasonably be expected to subject the patient to unwarranted risk or compromise the value of the data. Any patient with pathologic tremor, such as parkinsonian rest tremor, essential tremor, or tremor secondary to medications or structural brain lesions. Any clinically significant laboratory abnormalities. Lack of effective contraception. Patients who are pregnant. Inability to understand the nature of the study or its procedures. Persons under the age of 21, who are not of legal age to consume alcohol in Maryland. Patients taking any psychoactive medications including certain cough or cold medicine preparations. No one will be excluded or discriminated against based on the grounds of race, creed, gender, color, or national origin. Every attempt will be made to include women and minorities in the study population.

Study Location