Motor behavior alterations are a shared hallmark of neurodegenerative diseases affecting motor circuits, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson's, and Huntington's diseases. In patients and transgenic animal models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis fine movements controlled by distal muscles are the first to be affected, but its study and knowledge remain poorly understood, mainly because most of the tests used for describing the motor alterations are focused on the function of proximal muscles and gross movements. In this study we demonstrate that alterations of phalangeal fine movements can be quantitatively evaluated using a novel procedure designed by us, phalangeal tension recording test, which showed high sensitivity to detect such alterations. The evaluation was carried out during the MN degenerative process induced by the acute and chronic overactivation of AMPA receptors in the lumbar rat spinal cord, using previously described models. The new method allowed the quantification of significant alterations of the fine movements of the hindpaws phalanges when AMPA was infused in the lumbar segment controlling the distal muscles, but not when a more rostral spinal segment was infused, and these alterations were not detected by the rotarod or the stride tests. These changes occurred before the paralysis of the hindlimbs. Studying the early distal motor alterations before the total paralysis at late stages is essential for understanding the initial consequences of MN degeneration and therefore for designing new strategies for the control, treatment and prevention of MN diseases. Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier B.V.