Psychomotor retardation is a long established component of depression that can have significant clinical and therapeutic implications for treatment. Due to its negative impact on overall function in depressed patients, we review its biological correlates, optimal methods of measurement, and relevance in the context of therapeutic interventions. The aim of the paper is to provide a synthesis of the literature on psychomotor retardation in depression with the goal of enhanced awareness for clinicians and researchers. Increased knowledge and understanding of psychomotor retardation in major depressive disorder may lead to further research and better informed diagnosis in regards to psychomotor retardation. Manifestations of psychomotor retardation include slowed speech, decreased movement, and impaired cognitive function. It is common in patients with melancholic depression and those with psychotic features. Biological correlates may include abnormalities in the basal ganglia and dopaminergic pathways. Neurophysiologic tools such as neuroimaging and transcranial magnetic stimulation may play a role in the study of this symptom in the future. At present, there are three objective scales to evaluate psychomotor retardation severity. Studies examining the impact of psychomotor retardation on clinical outcome have found differential results. However, available evidence suggests that depressed patients with psychomotor retardation may respond well to electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Current literature regarding antidepressants is inconclusive, though tricyclic antidepressants may be considered for treatment of patients with psychomotor retardation. Future work examining this objective aspect of major depressive disorder (MDD) is essential. This could further elucidate the biological underpinnings of depression and optimize its treatment.
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