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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2019 Mar;101:232-239. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.11.020. Epub 2018 Nov 14.

Abnormal postural behavior in patients with functional movement disorders during exposure to stress.

Author information

1
Department of Neurology, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, Freiburgstrasse, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland; Support Centre for Advanced Neuroimaging (SCAN), University Institute for Diagnostic and Interventional Neuroradiology, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, Freiburgstrasse, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland. Electronic address: giuseppe.zito@unige.ch.
2
Department of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, 24 rue du Général-Dufour, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland. Electronic address: kalliopi.apazoglou@unige.ch.
3
Laboratory of Movement Analysis and Measurement, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Route Cantonale, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland. Electronic address: anisoara.ionescu@epfl.ch.
4
Laboratory of Movement Analysis and Measurement, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Route Cantonale, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland. Electronic address: kamiar.aminian@epfl.ch.
5
Department of Neurology, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital, Freiburgstrasse, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland; Department of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, University of Geneva, 24 rue du Général-Dufour, 1211 Geneva, Switzerland. Electronic address: selma.aybek@insel.ch.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Patients affected by functional (psychogenic) movement disorders (FMD) have abnormal processing of stress responses. However, little is known about the influence of this abnormal stress processing on automatic motor defense behavior, such as freeze response. Our aim was thus to investigate stress-induced postural motor responses in FMD.

METHODS:

Nine FMD patients and thirteen healthy controls were engaged in the Trier Social Stress Test, while we measured the movement of their body by means of accelerometers and gyroscopes attached to the thorax. Standard deviation of thorax acceleration, reflecting the variability of movement amplitude (body sway), was compared across groups over time in a 2 × 2 ANOVA design. Higuchi's fractal dimension (HFD), reflecting the complexity of movement pattern over time, was also analyzed. Salivary cortisol and α-amylase samples were collected before and after the experiment, as stress biomarkers. Pearson's correlation coefficients were calculated between these biomarkers and movement parameters.

RESULTS:

A significant interaction effect was found, showing that healthy controls reduced their thorax sway over time during exposure to stress (from 0.027 ± 0.010 m/s2 to 0.023 ± 0.008 m/s2, effect size of Cohen's d = 0.95), whereas patients with FMD did not. This change in body sway in controls over time negatively correlated with salivary cortisol values (ρ = -0.67, p = 0.012). A significant group effect revealed that FMD patients had an overall larger body sway (0.038 ± 0.013 m/s2) compared to controls (0.025 ± 0.009 m/s2 - effect size of Cohen's d = 1.29) and a lower HFD (1.602 ± 0.071) than controls (1.710 ± 0.078 - Cohen's d = 1.43).

CONCLUSIONS:

Patients with FMD failed to show a reduction of body sway over time, i.e., freeze response observed in the controls, thus suggesting an impairment in the automatic defense behavior. Moreover, our analysis found a lower complexity of movement (HFD) in FMD, which deserves future research in order to verify whether this could represent a characteristic trait of the disorder.

KEYWORDS:

Freeze response; Functional movement disorders; Motor behavior; Stress

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