Public Release: 

New Technique Measures Nerve Impulses

Johns Hopkins Medicine

JHU Medical Institutions

New Technique Measures Nerve Impulses

A Johns Hopkins researcher has developed a new technique to measure electrical impulses in a cranial nerve, which may lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of some facial nerve disorders.

Researchers stimulated the motor branches of the trigeminal nerve, a major nerve in the jaw, in 42 patients by placing a stimulator in their mouths. They measured the resulting electrical impulses in the muscles with electrodes on the skin. The results show that the technique accurately measured the nerve's electrical impulses and helped researchers to determine the normal level for electrical activity in these nerve branches. Previously, there were no techniques for studying or determining normal electrical impulse activity in the trigeminal nerve motor branches.

"This technique should be useful in diagnosing patients with trigeminal nerve disorders," says Timothy Dillingham, M.D., the study's lead author and director of electrodiagnostic services in physical medicine and rehabilitation at Hopkins.

These disorders may be caused by jaw fractures, spine injuries, dental surgery complications, tumors and blood vessel malformations. The technique also may be useful in patients with swallowing or speaking disorders due to traumatic brain injury. The study, which was supported by the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, was published recently in Muscle and Nerve.

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