Catatonia as a psychomotor syndrome: A rating scale and extrapyramidal motor symptoms




Catatonia was first described by Kahlbaum as a psychomotor disease with motor, behavioral, and affective symptoms. In keeping with this concept, we developed a rating scale for catatonia (Northoff Catatonia Scale [NCS]) with three different categories of symptoms (i.e., motor, behavioral, affective). Furthermore, the question of the relationship among catatonic symptoms, extrapyramidal motor symptoms, and neuroleptics was addressed in the present study.


34 acute catatonic patients and 68 age-, sex-, diagnosis-, and medication-matched psychiatric control subjects were investigated on days 0, 1, 3, 7, and 21 with the NCS, with other already validated catatonia rating scales by Rosebush, Bush (BFCRS), and Rogers (MRS), as well as with scales for hypokinetic (SEPS) and dyskinetic (AIMS) extrapyramidal motor features. Validity and reliability of the new scale, factor analysis, correlational analysis, and differences between catatonic patients and psychiatric control subjects were statistically calculated.


NCS showed high validity (i.e., significant positive correlations [p <0.0001] with the other scales, significant differences between catatonic and control subjects), high intra- and interrater reliabilities (r = 0.80–0.96), and high affective subscores. Factor analysis revealed four factors best characterized as affective, hypoactive, hyperactive, and behavioral. Catatonic scores in NCS correlated significantly with AIMS on day 0 and SEPS on days 7 and 21. There were no significant differences in catatonic (i.e., NCS, MRS, BFCRS) and extrapyramidal (i.e., AIMS, SEPS) scores between neuroleptically treated and untreated catatonic subjects.


The following conclusions were drawn: (1) the NCS has to be considered as a valid and reliable rating instrument for catatonia; (2) catatonia can be characterized by psychomotor symptoms encompassing motor, affective, and behavioral alterations; and (3) extrapyramidal hyperkinesias like dyskinesias are apparently closely related to catatonic symptoms which, in general, seem to be relatively independent of previous neuroleptic medication.