Loss of sensory attenuation in patients with functional (psychogenic) movement disorders

Brain. 2014 Nov;137(Pt 11):2916-21. doi: 10.1093/brain/awu237. Epub 2014 Aug 26.


Functional movement disorders require attention to manifest yet patients report the abnormal movement to be out of their control. In this study we explore the phenomenon of sensory attenuation, a measure of the sense of agency for movement, in this group of patients by using a force matching task. Fourteen patients and 14 healthy control subjects were presented with forces varying from 1 to 3 N on the index finger of their left hand. Participants were required to match these forces; either by pressing directly on their own finger or by operating a robot that pressed on their finger. As expected, we found that healthy control subjects consistently overestimated the force required when pressing directly on their own finger than when operating a robot. However, patients did not, indicating a significant loss of sensory attenuation in this group of patients. These data are important because they demonstrate that a fundamental component of normal voluntary movement is impaired in patients with functional movement disorders. The loss of sensory attenuation has been correlated with the loss of sense of agency, and may help to explain why patients report that they do not experience the abnormal movement as voluntary.

Keywords: agency; attention; force-matching; functional movement disorders; sensory attenuation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Hand / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Movement Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Somatosensory Disorders / physiopathology*