Original article| Volume 27, ISSUE 2, P108-113, March 2005

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The movement disorders of Coffin–Lowry syndrome


      Coffin–Lowry syndrome (CLS) is an X-linked semi-dominant condition with learning difficulties and dysmorphism caused by mutations in the gene RSK2. Originally, epilepsy was reported as a feature. We and others have since described predominantly sound-startle induced drop attacks that have been labelled ‘cataplexy’, abnormal startle response and hyperekplexia. We sought to clarify why there should be controversy over the type of paroxysmal events. Review of the literature and our patients confirmed that each centre had studied only a small numbers of individuals (mean=2). The type of movement disorder varied both with age and between individuals. One individual might have more than one movement disorder. One of our adult patients had several types of movement disorder and epilepsy that merged seamlessly: there was true cataplexy triggered by telling a joke, something close to cataplexy (‘cataplexy’) triggered by sound-startle, a predominantly hypertonic reaction varying from hyperekplexia to a more prolonged tonic reaction resembling startle epilepsy, and true unprovoked epileptic seizures. In the large database of the Coffin–Lowry Syndrome Foundation family support group, 34 of 170 (20%) individuals with CLS and known age had ‘drop attacks’ and an additional 9 (5%) of these had additional epileptic seizures. The onset of such events was usually after age 5 years, prevalence peaking at 15–20 years (27%). Many became wheelchair bound as a result. This unique combination of more than one non-epileptic movement disorder and epilepsy deserves further semiological and genetic study both for the patients with CLS and for the wider implications.


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