Background: Actigraphy is a quantitative method for measurement of motor activity. In the present study we used actigraphy to examine diurnal variations in locomotor activity of schizophrenic patients with neuroleptic-induced akathisia (NIA).
Method: Thirty-two schizophrenic patients, 16 with NIA and 16 without (DSM-IV criteria) underwent 24-h actigraphic monitoring. Clinical assessments of NIA were conducted with Barnes Akathisia Scale (BAS) at 08:00, 12:00, 16:00 and 20:00. Sleep parameters (duration, latency, continuity and efficacy) were assessed by actigraphy. Sleep quality was evaluated by a self-rated sleep questionnaire.
Results: NIA patients demonstrated persistent higher daytime motor activity from 11:30 to 14:15 and from 18:00 to 21:00 than controls. There were no differences between the groups in nighttime motor activity, confirming clinical observations that NIA tends to disappear during sleep. Subject's sleep assessments were similar in the two groups.
Conclusions: Actigraphy seems to be a reliable, non-invasive, method of measuring motor activity in patients with NIA. Its sensitivity and specificity as an objective quantitative diagnostic instrument in patients with NIA merits further investigation.