Characterization of neurological soft signs in a Brazilian sample of stable patients with schizophrenia

Abstract Introduction: Neurological soft signs (NSS) have been considered one of the target features and a potential endophenotype for schizophrenia. The present study aimed to characterize NSS in a sample of patients with chronic schizophrenia and to compare them with healthy control individuals. Methods: In this study, we evaluated the presence of NSS in a sample of stable patients (n = 24) diagnosed with schizophrenia according to DSM-IV criteria, recruited at the Schizophrenia Outpatient Clinic of Instituto Raul Soares, Belo Horizonte, state of Minas Gerais, southeastern Brazil. Assessment was made with the Brief Motor Scale (BMS), and extrapyramidal symptoms (EPS) were evaluated with the Simpson-Angus Scale (SAS) and the Abnormal Involuntary Movement Scale (AIMS). A control group (n = 21) was also submitted to the same battery of tests. Results: We observed a significant difference in relation to BMS and SAS scores (p < 0.0001), revealing that individuals with schizophrenia present more NSS and EPS than healthy ones. BMS total scores correlated positively with SAS scores (r = 0.495, p = 0.014), but not with AIMS scores, indicating that NSS could be influenced by the intensity of EPS. Nevertheless, we observed that this relationship remained only for motor coordination tasks (r = 0.550, p = 0.005), while motor sequencing tasks were not influenced by EPS (r = 0.313, p = 0.136). Conclusion: The results suggest that NSS are more frequent in patients with schizophrenia and that motor sequencing tasks could be more specific to the syndrome.