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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 48 (2006) 2, 95 - 106

Review article

Psychomotor retardation in depression assessed by visuomotor tasks: overview and achievements of ten years' research

M.P.B.I. Pier, W. Hulstijn, J.J.M. van Hoof, B.G.C. Sabbe

backgroundA new line of research into psychomotor retardation in patients with a major depressive disorder began about ten years ago. The purpose of the research was twofold: to obtain a clearer understanding of psychomotor retardation in patients with a major depressive disorder and to assess the importance of psychomotor retardation for the diagnosis and treatment.
aimTo present an overview of the results of these studies in which psychomotor retardation of these patients was investigated.
methodThe patients had to perform visuomotor tasks involving pen movements. The psychomotor retardation was measured by recording their pen movements objectively and accurately by means of a computer and digitiser.
resultsPatients with major depressive disorder showed pronounced psychomotor retardation in the visuomotor tasks. The psychomotor retardation appeared to be of both a cognitive and motor nature. The treatment study which examined the effect of fluoxetine on psychomotor retardation revealed that the cognitive retardation disappeared but the motor retardation remained. It was particularly the more retarded patient who responded well to fluoxetine. The research that compared the psychomotor retardation in various subtypes of depression revealed that patients with major depressive disorder showed pronounced retardation but dysthymic patients did not show any retardation. Psychomotor retardation was more severe in patients with major depressive disorder with melancholic features.
conclusionPsychomotor retardation can play an important role in the diagnosis and treatment of depressive disorders.

keywords major depressive disorder, psychomotor disorders, visuomotor tasks