Background. Catatonia is a psychomotor syndrome that can be characterized by behavioural, affective and motor abnormalities. In order to reveal further underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of psychomotor disturbances in catatonia we investigated neuropsychological function and regional cerebral perfusion (r-CBF) in a combined study. Methods. Ten catatonic patients were investigated with Tc-99mECD brain SPECT and compared with 10 psychiatric (similar age, sex, medication and underlying psychiatric diagnosis but without catatonic syndrome) and 20 healthy controls. Neuropsychological measures included tests for general intelligence, attention, executive functions and right parietal visual-spatial abilities. Correlational analyses were performed between neuropsychological measures, catatonic symptoms and r-CBF. Results. Catatonic patients showed a significant decrease of r-CBF in right lower and middle prefrontal and parietal cortex compared with psychiatric and healthy controls as well as significantly poorer performance in visual-spatial abilities associated with right parietal function. Correlational analysis revealed significant correlations between visual-spatial abilities and right parietal r-CBF only in psychiatric and healthy controls but not in catatonic patients. In contrast, attentional measures correlated significantly with motor symptoms, visual-spatial abilities and right parietal r-CBF in catatonia only but not in psychiatric or in healthy controls. Conclusion. Findings are preliminary but suggest right lower prefronto-parietal cortical dysfunction in catatonia, which may be closely related to psychomotor disturbances.
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