Baseline Neuromotor Abnormalities Persist in Schizophrenia

Heidi Splete

September 13, 2022

Baseline dyskinesia and neurological soft signs (NSS) predicted the disease process of schizophrenia over a 21-year follow-up period, based on data from 243 adult patients.

Neuromotor abnormalities in psychotic disorders have long been ignored as side effects of antipsychotic drugs, but they are gaining new attention as a component of the disease process, with implications for outcomes and management, wrote Victor Peralta, MD, PhD, of Servicio Navarro de Salud, Pamplona, Spain, and colleagues.

Previous research has suggested links between increased levels of parkinsonism, dyskinesia, and NSS and poor symptomatic and functional outcomes, but "the impact of primary neuromotor dysfunction on the long-term course and outcome of psychotic disorders remains largely unknown," they said.

In a study published in Schizophrenia Research, the investigators identified 243 consecutive schizophrenia patients admitted to a psychiatric ward at a single center.

Patients were assessed at baseline for variables including parkinsonism, dyskinesia, NSS, and catatonia, and were reassessed 21 years later for the same variables, along with psychopathology, functioning, personal recovery, cognitive performance, and comorbidity.

Overall, baseline dyskinesia and NSS measures were stable over time, with Intraclass Correlation Coefficients (ICC) of 0.92 and 0.86, respectively, while rating stability was low for parkinsonism and catatonia (ICC = 0.42 and 0.31, respectively).

Baseline dyskinesia and NSS each were independent predictors of more positive and negative symptoms, poor functioning, and less personal recovery at 21 years. In a multivariate model, neuromotor dysfunction at follow-up was significantly associated with family history of schizophrenia, obstetric complications, neurodevelopmental delay, and premorbid IQ, as well as baseline dyskinesia and NSS; "these variables explained 51% of the variance in the neuromotor outcome, 35% of which corresponded to baseline dyskinesia and NSS," the researchers said. As for other outcomes, baseline neuromotor ratings predicted a range from 4% for medical comorbidity to 15% for cognitive impairment.

"The distinction between primary and drug-induced neuromotor dysfunction is a very complex issue, mainly because antipsychotic drugs may cause de novo motor dysfunction, such as improve or worsen the disease-based motor dysfunction," the researchers explained in their discussion.

Baseline parkinsonism, dyskinesia, and NSS were significantly related to increased risk of antipsychotic exposure over the illness course, possibly because primary neuromotor dysfunction was predictive of greater severity of illness in general, which confounds differentiation between primary and drug-induced motor symptoms, they noted.

The study findings were limited by several factors including potential selection bias because of the selection of first-admission psychosis, which may limit generalizability, the researchers noted. Other limitations include the use of standard clinical rating scales rather than instrumental procedures to measuring neuromotor abnormalities.

However, "our findings confirm the significance of baseline and follow-up neuromotor abnormalities as a core dimension of psychosis," and future studies "should complement clinical rating scales with instrumental assessment to capture neuromotor dysfunction more comprehensively," they said.

The results highlight the clinical relevance of examining neuromotor abnormalities as a routine part of practice prior to starting antipsychotics because of their potential as predictors of long-term outcomes "and to disentangle the primary versus drug-induced character of neuromotor impairment in treated patients," they concluded.

The study was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Economy, Industry, and Competitiveness, and the Regional Government of Navarra. The researchers had no financial conflicts to disclose.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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