Triggers in functional motor disorder: a clinical feature distinct from precipitating factors

Christian Geroin, Jon Stone, Serena Camozzi, Benedetta Demartini, Marialuisa Gandolfi, Michele Tinazzi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: People with functional motor disorder (FMD) report triggers-sensory or motor-induced stimuli that exacerbate or initiate paroxysmal occurrences of their movement disorder. These are a distinct phenomenon from precipitating factors occurring at the initial onset of the disorder. We aimed to assess triggers in FMD and understand their relevance to paroxysmal variability often seen in FMD.

METHODS: We enrolled consecutive outpatients with a definite diagnosis of FMD. Each patient underwent a detailed clinical evaluation also including the presence of trigger factors and video-recordings both during neurological examination and physiotherapy treatment. Patients were classified as having "triggers" (T-FMD) or "not having triggers" (NoT-FMD) as well as "paroxysmal" compared to "persistent with paroxysmal variability".

RESULTS: The study sample was 100 patients (82% female) with FMD; the mean age at onset was 41 years. Triggers were observed in 88% of patients and in 65 of these the FMD was pure paroxysmal. The most common triggers were movement or physical exercise, followed by emotional, visual, touch, and auditory stimuli; 39 (44%) were isolated and 49 (56%) were combined triggers. Among the T-FMD patients, FMD were paroxysmal in 74% (n = 65) and persistent with paroxysmal variability in 26% (n = 23). The T-FMD patients were younger (p = 0.016) and had a gait disorder (p = 0.035) more frequently than the NoT-FMD patients.

DISCUSSION: Triggers are frequent in FMD and may have diverse overlapping clinical presentations. In this sample, FMD was most often paroxysmal, suggesting the value of noting triggers as clinical clues in the diagnosis and rehabilitation of FMD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3892-3898
JournalJournal of Neurology
Issue number7
Early online date20 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Diagnosis
  • Functional motor disorders
  • Functional neurological disorders
  • Precipitating factors
  • Triggers


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