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Journal of Psychiatric Practice:
doi: 10.1097/01.pra.0000445250.20875.0e
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Neurological Soft Signs Discriminate Schizophrenia from Bipolar Disorder

RIGUCCI, SILVIA MD; DIMITRI-VALENTE, GIORGIA MD; MANDARELLI, GABRIELE MD; MANFREDI, GIOVANNI MD; COMPARELLI, ANNA MD; DE FILIPPIS, SERGIO MD; GHERARDELLI, SIMONA MD; BERSANI, GIUSEPPE MD; GIRARDI, PAOLO MD; FERRACUTI, STEFANO MD

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Abstract

Background. Although neurological soft signs have been consistently described in patients with schizophrenia, their diagnostic specificity is not well clarified. Methods. To test the hypothesis that neurological soft signs are specifically related to schizophrenia, we examined 305 subjects (patients with schizophrenia-spectrum disorder, n=167; patients with bipolar I disorder, n=88; controls, n=50). Neurological soft signs were assessed using the Neurological Evaluation Scale (NES). Multiple logistic regression analysis was used to compute the diagnostic predictive power of neurological soft signs. Results. Patients in the schizophrenia-spectrum disorder group were found to have significantly greater neurological impairment (NES total score=23.9, standard deviation [SD] 11.2) than those in the bipolar disorder group (NES total score=18.2, SD 7.6; p<0.001). Neurological functioning was closely associated with psychopathology (all p<0.001). The NES total score reliably distinguished patients with schizophrenia spectrum disorders from those with bipolar disorder in 68.7% of the cases (p<0.001). Moreover, a particular set of neurological soft signs showed specificity for the schizophrenia-spectrum disorder diagnostic group. Conclusions. Our findings suggest that schizophrenia and bipolar disorder can be distinguished in terms of neurological impairment. Furthermore, we recommend the utility of neurological soft signs as a useful, quantifiable, sensitive, and inexpensive tool for the diagnostic work-up of schizophrenia. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice 2014;20:147–153)

Copyright © 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins Inc.

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