Motor initiation and execution in patients with conversion paralysis

Acta Psychol (Amst). 2002 May;110(1):21-34. doi: 10.1016/s0001-6918(01)00068-3.


Motor initiation and motor execution in four patients with conversion paralysis were investigated in a non-affected motor modality (speech). In line with the hypothesis of dissociated control in conversion disorder [Cognit. Neuropsychiatry 8 (1) (2001) 21] motor initiation, but not response duration, was expected to be impaired. The motor initiation times (reaction time: RT) and motor execution times (response duration: RD) were compared on four RT-tasks that required the production of a verbal response: a simple choice RT-task, a mental letter rotation task, and an implicit and an explicit mental hand rotation task. Because conversion disorder is expected to primarily involve an impairment in the initiation of movement, we expected the following task characteristics to uniquely affect RT and not RD: type of instruction (implicit versus explicit instructed imagery), angle of rotation, and target arm (affected versus non-affected arm). The results indeed showed the task characteristics to significantly affect the participants' RT and not their RD. It was concluded that conversion paralysis is associated with a specific impairment in the explicit initiation of processes with a spatial and motor component.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Conversion Disorder / physiopathology*
  • Conversion Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Paralysis / physiopathology*
  • Paralysis / psychology*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Verbal Behavior / physiology