Tardive dyskinesia (TD) is a disorder characterized by abnormal involuntary movements and associated with neuroleptic therapy. To determine whether the respiratory muscles are involved in this condition, we compared the breathing pattern of ten patients with TD with ten patients with chronic schizophrenia receiving neuroleptic therapy without evidence of TD, and ten age-matched normal control subjects during resting tidal breathing, forearm pronation-supination (a maneuver designed to elicit the abnormal movements of TD), and breathing to a set frequency. Breathing patterns were also assessed in seven patients with TD during a progressive incremental exercise test and an overnight polysomnogram. Patients with TD had an irregular tidal breathing pattern, with a greater variability in both tidal volume and time of the total respiratory cycle (TTOT). Both groups of patients receiving neuroleptic therapy had a rapid shallow breathing pattern when performing forearm pronation-supination compared with control subjects. There were no differences between any of the subject groups when breathing to a set frequency. The patients with TD had a normal response to progressive exercise and inspiratory time and TTOT values were less variable during non-rapid eye movement sleep compared with wakefulness. We conclude that patients with TD have irregular rapid shallow breathing which is less variable during sleep and does not limit their exercise performance.