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J Clin Psychiatry. 1998;59 Suppl 14:19-25.

The measurement of retardation in depression.

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Groupe Hospitalier de la Salpêtrière, Paris, France.


The description of clinical features helps to distinguish between depressive illness and nondepressive psychic pain and enables the clinician to decide whether prescription of an antidepressant is beneficial. Psychomotor retardation is probably a central feature of depression, and this review discusses the methods available for measuring it. The Salpêtrière Retardation Rating Scale (SRRS) specifically measures psychomotor retardation; the scale and applications are described. Means of measuring motor and speech activity and an experimental approach for understanding the process underlying psychomotor retardation are reviewed. Comparison of the SRRS and other rating scale scores demonstrates that retardation is related to depression severity and therapeutic change and is a good criterion for prediction of therapeutic effect. The SRRS has been used to show that selective antidepressants target specific clinical dimensions of depression depending on the patient subgroup treated. Measures of motor and speech activity are sensitive to therapeutic response. Choice Reaction Time and Simple Reaction Time tasks are particularly suited for examining psychomotor retardation because they test the decision process while avoiding motivation and attention interference. Psychomotor retardation is a constant and probably central feature of depression. Means available for measuring it can be used to assess the effects of antidepressants on specific clinical dimensions.

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