Functional disability of patients with Huntington's disease (HD) is determined by impairment of voluntary motor function rather than the presence of chorea. However, only few attempts have been made to quantify this motor impairment. By using a simple reaction time paradigm, we measured the time needed for movement initiation (akinesia) and execution (bradykinesia) in 76 HD patients and 127 controls. Akinesia and bradykinesia were already evident in early stages and increased linearly with increasing disease stage. Quantified motor slowness correlated with clinical impairment of voluntary movements but also with cognitive impairment and medication use. In patients without severe cognitive impairment, quantified motor slowness reflected clinical motor impairment more purely. During 1.9 years follow-up (range, 0.8-3.8 years), quantified akinesia and bradykinesia progressed concomitantly with progression of clinical impairment of voluntary movements, cognition, and functional capacity. However, rate of change in motor slowness did not discriminate between patients whose disease stage remained stable and those whose disease stage progressed. We conclude that the reaction time paradigm may be used to quantify akinesia and bradykinesia in HD, at least in patients without severe cognitive impairment. Although reaction and movement times increased in time, these measures failed to detect functionally important changes during our follow-up period.
- Huntington's disease
- Reaction time