A widely accepted consensus holds that a variety of motor symptoms subsumed under the term 'catatonia' have been an integral part of the symptomatology of schizophrenia since 1896, when Kraepelin proposed the concept of dementia praecox (schizophrenia). Until recently, psychiatric classifications included catatonic schizophrenia mainly through tradition, without compelling evidence of its validity as a schizophrenia subtype. This selective review briefly summarizes the history, psychopathology, demographic and epidemiological data, and treatment options for schizophrenia with prominent catatonic features. Although most catatonic signs and symptoms are easy to observe and measure, the lack of conceptual clarity of catatonia and consensus about the threshold and criteria for its diagnosis have hampered our understanding of how catatonia contributes to the pathophysiology of schizophrenic psychoses. Diverse study samples and methodologies have further hindered research on schizophrenia with prominent catatonic features. A focus on the motor aspects of broadly defined schizophrenia using modern methods of detecting and quantifying catatonic signs and symptoms coupled with sophisticated neuroimaging techniques offers a new approach to research in this long-overlooked field.
Keywords: Catatonic schizophrenia; History; Kraepelin; Leonhard; Phenomenology.
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