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Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Jul 1;68(1):93-9. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.01.021. Epub 2010 Mar 15.

Markers of basal ganglia dysfunction and conversion to psychosis: neurocognitive deficits and dyskinesias in the prodromal period.

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Department of Psychology, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California, USA.

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  • Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Jul 15;68(2):213.



Movement abnormalities and cognitive deficits may represent external markers of an underlying neural process linked with the early etiology of psychosis. As basal ganglia function plays a governing role in both movement and cognitive processes, an understanding of the relationship between these phenomena stands to inform etiologic conceptualizations of vulnerability and psychotic disorders.


In this investigation, trained raters coded movement abnormalities in videotapes from structured interviews of adolescents and young adults with a prodromal risk syndrome (n = 90). The participants were administered a neuropsychological battery including measures of verbal comprehension, perceptual organization, immediate/delayed auditory memory, and an estimate of full-scale intelligence quotient. Diagnostic status was followed for a 2-year period utilizing structured clinical interviews, during which time 24 high-risk participants (26.66%) converted to an Axis I psychotic disorder.


Elevated dyskinetic movements in the upper-body region were correlated with deficits in domains of verbal comprehension, perceptual organization, and both immediate and delayed auditory memory. Further, discriminant function analyses indicated that baseline movement abnormalities and neurocognitive deficits significantly classified those high-risk participants who would eventually convert to a psychotic disorder (72.3%).


Results support a common cortico-striato-pallido-thalamic circuit irregularity, underlying both movement abnormalities and cognitive deficits in individuals at high risk for psychosis. Models incorporating external markers of progressive basal ganglia dysfunction may enhance detection and preventive intervention for those high-risk individuals most in need of treatment.

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