Autoimmune and paraneoplastic movement disorders: An update

J Neurol Sci. 2018 Feb 15:385:175-184. doi: 10.1016/j.jns.2017.12.035. Epub 2017 Dec 30.


Movement disorders (MDs) are common in patients with autoimmune disorders affecting the central and peripheral nervous system. They may be observed in autoimmune disorders triggered by an infectious agent, such as streptococcus in Sydenham's chorea, or in basal ganglia encephalitis with antibodies against the dopamine-D2 receptors. In these patients chorea or dystonia are usually the most prominent hyperkinetic MDs. MDs are also observed in patients with diffuse or limbic encephalitis with antibodies directed against neuronal cell-surface antigens. Anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis is one of the most common and may present with a variety of MDs, including: chorea, stereotypies, dystonia and myorhythmia. The recognition of other abnormal motor phenomena such as "faciobrachial dystonic seizures" and neuromyotonia, observed in patients with LGI1 and Caspr-2 antibodies, is important because they may herald the onset of overt limbic encephalitis. Autoimmunity directed against the intracellular enzyme glutamic acid decarboxylase usually presents with MDs, most commonly stiff-person syndrome or cerebellar ataxia. Chorea may be observed in rheumatologic disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus or antiphospholipid syndrome. Disorders with uncertain autoimmune mechanisms such as Hashimoto's encephalitis and idiopathic opsoclonus-myoclonus syndrome commonly present with tremor, myoclonus and ataxia. A rapid diagnosis of an autoimmune disorder, which typically presents with subacute onset, is critical as early therapeutic intervention improves long-term prognosis and may be life-saving. Treatment usually involves some form of immunotherapy and symptomatic therapy of the abnormal movements with dopamine depleters, dopamine receptor antagonists, or GABAergic drugs. Detection and removal of an underlying tumor is essential for optimal outcome.

Keywords: Ataxia; Autoimmune disorders; Chorea; Movement disorders; Stiff-person syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoantibodies / metabolism
  • Autoimmune Diseases / complications*
  • Humans
  • Movement Disorders / complications*
  • Paraneoplastic Syndromes, Nervous System / complications*


  • Autoantibodies