Micrographia, much beyond the writer's hand

Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2016 May;26:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.parkreldis.2016.03.003. Epub 2016 Mar 11.


Introduction: This review on micrographia aims to draw the clinician's attention to non-Parkinsonian etiologies, provide clues to differential diagnosis, and summarize current knowledge on the phenomenology, etiology, and mechanisms underlying micrographia.

Methods: A systematic review of the existing literature was performed.

Results: Micrographia, namely small sized handwriting has long been attributed to Parkinson's disease. However, it has often been observed as part of the clinical picture of additional neurodegenerative disorders, sometimes antedating the motor signs, or following focal basal ganglia lesions without any accompanying parkinsonism, suggesting that bradykinesia and rigidity are not sine-qua-non for the development of this phenomenon. Therefore, micrographia in a patient with no signs of parkinsonism may prompt the clinician to perform imaging in order to exclude a focal basal ganglia lesion. Dopaminergic etiology in this and other cases is doubtful, since levodopa ameliorates letter stroke size only partially, and only in some patients. Parkinsonian handwriting is often characterized by lack of fluency, slowness, and less frequently by micrographia. Deviations from kinematic laws of motion that govern normal movement, including the lack of movement smoothness and inability to scale movement amplitude to the desired size, may reflect impairments in motion planning, possible loss of automaticity and reduced movement vigor.

Conclusions: The etiology, neuroanatomy, mechanisms and models of micrographia are discussed. Dysfunction of the basal ganglia circuitry induced by neurodegeneration or disruption by focal damage give rise to micrographia.

Keywords: Handwriting; Micrographia; Parkinson's disease; Scaling.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Agraphia / diagnosis*
  • Agraphia / etiology
  • Agraphia / therapy
  • Basal Ganglia / pathology*
  • Handwriting*
  • Humans
  • Hypokinesia / diagnosis
  • Hypokinesia / etiology
  • Hypokinesia / therapy
  • Nerve Net / pathology*
  • Parkinson Disease / complications
  • Parkinson Disease / diagnosis
  • Parkinson Disease / therapy