About this Research Topic
Neurological soft signs (NSS) or minor motor and sensory deficits mainly involve motor coordination, orientation and sensory integration. While NSS are frequently found in a large variety of severe neuropsychiatric conditions, most studies have focused on NSS in schizophrenia. However, more recent studies established the prevalence of NSS in dementia and other organic mental disorders.
As demonstrated in a wealth of studies including a number of longitudinal trials, NSS in schizophrenia share both state and trait characteristics, as they vary in the course of illness with psychopathological symptoms, but are already increased before manifestation of the disease in otherwise healthy subjects with an increased liability. Associations were also found with cognitive deficits and cerebral changes as demonstrated in neuroimaging studies. In the light of these findings, NSS may facilitate early recognition of schizophrenia and may be used for monitoring and prognosis. According to recent studies, these findings also apply to other severe neuropsychiatric disorders, in particular organic mental disorder due to HIV infection.
Multicenter longitudinal studies, which also included neuroimaging are still missing. Recent neuroimaging studies focused on structural abnormalities, while functional changes were primarily addressed in the landmark studies of the 1990ties. However, evidence from these studies demonstrate an involvement of motor and sensory systems in NSS, which may correspond to the clinical associations between NSS, psychopathological symptoms and cognitive deficits due to the highly integrated functioning of the brain.
From a clinical standpoint, NSS have the potential to facilitate early recognition and prognosis of schizophrenia and other severe neuropsychiatric conditions. Above that, NSS may provide new ways to investigate cerebral dysfunction underlying the respective disorders.
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