Schizophrenia patients frequently present with subtle motor impairments, including higher order motor function such as hand gesture performance. Using cut off scores from a standardized gesture test, we previously reported gesture deficits in 40% of schizophrenia patients irrespective of the gesture content. However, these findings were based on normative data from an older control group. Hence, we now aimed at determining cut-off scores in an age and gender matched control group. Furthermore, we wanted to explore whether gesture categories are differentially affected in Schizophrenia. Gesture performance data of 30 schizophrenia patients and data from 30 matched controls were compared. Categories included meaningless, intransitive (communicative) and transitive (object related) hand gestures, which were either imitated or pantomimed, i.e. produced on verbal command. Cut-off scores of the age matched control group were higher than the previous cut-off scores in an older control group. An ANOVA tested effects of group, domain (imitation or pantomime), and semantic category (meaningless, transitive or intransitive), as well as their interaction. According to the new cut-off scores, 67% of the schizophrenia patients demonstrated gestural deficits. Patients performed worse in all gesture categories, however meaningless gestures on verbal command were particularly impaired (p = 0.008). This category correlated with poor frontal lobe function (p < 0.001). In conclusion, gestural deficits in schizophrenia are even more frequent than previously reported. Gesture categories that pose higher demands on planning and selection such as pantomime of meaningless gestures are predominantly affected and associated with the well-known frontal lobe dysfunction.
Keywords: Action planning; Hand gestures; Intransitive; Meaningless; Transitive.
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