Movement disorders: Classifications

C. Klein*

*Corresponding author for this work
36 Citations (Scopus)


Movement disorders (ataxia, dystonic disorders, gait disorders, Huntington disease, myoclonus, parkinsonism, spasticity, tardive dyskinesia, tics and tremor) are clinically, pathologically and genetically heterogeneous and are characterized by impairment of the planning, control or execution of movement. Current classifications of these disorders have inherent shortcomings due to the complex nature of movement disorders and the lack of diagnostic tests for the majority. Undiscriminating terminology, as well as the clinical, pathological and genetic heterogeneity, further complicate the development of comprehensive categorizations. Modern classification schemes tend to focus on clinical, pathological or genetic/molecular criteria, but more recent attempts have been made to integrate across these levels. From a historical perspective, two 'golden ages' have shaped the current and evolving classification schemes: (1) the definition of clinical pathological entities in the early twentieth century and (2) the application of molecular neurogenetics in the past 10-15 years. However, the classification of movement disorders on clinical grounds (according to age at onset, distribution of symptoms, disease course, provoking factors and therapeutic response) remains one of the most useful modes of categorization. Postmortem criteria have been employed to distinguish between degenerative and nondegenerative disorders, and specific hallmarks may be required to establish or confirm a diagnosis. Genetic features used for classification purposes include mode of inheritance and molecular genetic data, such as linkage to a known gene locus or identification of a specific genetic defect. A final classification scheme is based on alterations in molecular mechanisms (e.g. trinucleotide expansions) or protein function (e.g. channelopathies). Despite recent advances, it may not be possible to develop the 'ultimate' classification of movement disorders, and different patterns of lumping and splitting may be useful for the clinician, the pathologist or the geneticist/molecular biologist. Furthermore, certain individual cases with unique features may not fit into any particular category. Continued research by both clinicians and basic scientists is necessary in order to refine and redefine classification schemes of movement disorders.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Inherited Metabolic Disease
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)425-439
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 01.2005


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