Background

Motor abnormalities (MAs) of severe mental disorders have been traditionally neglected both in clinical practice and research, although they are an increasing focus of attention because of their clinical and neurobiological relevance. For historical reasons, most of the literature on MAs has been focused to a great extent on schizophrenia, and as a consequence their prevalence and featural properties in other psychiatric or neuropsychiatric disorders are poorly known. In this article, we evaluated the extent to which catatonic, extrapyramidal and neurological soft signs, and their associated clinical features, are present transdiagnostically.

Methods

We examined motor-related features in neurodevelopmental (schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, autism spectrum disorders), “functional” (nonschizophrenic nonaffective psychoses, mood disorders) and neurodegenerative (Alzheimer’s disease) disorders. Examination of the literature revealed that there have been very few comparisons of motor-related features across diagnoses and we had to rely mainly in disorder-specific studies to compare it transdiagnostically.

Results

One or more motor domains had a substantial prevalence in all the diagnoses examined. In “functional” disorders, MAs, and particularly catatonic signs, appear to be markers of episode severity; in chronic disorders, although with different degree of strength or evidence, all motor domains are indicators of both disorder severity and poor outcome; lastly, in Alzheimer’s disease they are also indicators of disorder progression.

Conclusions

MAs appear to represent a true transdiagnostic domain putatively sharing neurobiological mechanisms of neurodevelopmental, functional or neurodegenerative origin.