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Scientific Evidence for the Evaluation of Neurological Soft Signs as Atypical Neurodevelopment Markers in Childhood Neuropsychiatric Disorders


Journal of Psychiatric Practice®: July 2018 - Volume 24 - Issue 4 - p 230–238
doi: 10.1097/PRA.0000000000000312

Motor dysfunction is commonly present in children with neurodevelopmental disorders. Developmental changes in voluntary control of motor skills include improvements in speed and motor coordination as well as reduced frequency of neurological soft signs (NSS) that are commonly observed in typically developing younger children. NSS are motor and sensory conditions that cannot be linked to specific cerebral lesions. The persistence of NSS into later childhood and adolescence is linked with an increased risk of psychiatric disorders. This finding gives support to the neurodevelopmental model of NSS in which minor neurological impairments may be viewed as potential signs of deviant brain development and might represent trait markers of vulnerability for neurodevelopmental disorders. Given that NSS are easily detectable, it is important that clinicians increase their knowledge of the clinical presentation and research implications of the relationship between NSS and childhood neurodevelopmental disorders. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first review article to give an updated overview of the current knowledge of NSS in the most common neuropsychiatric disorders of childhood/adolescence, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, and first episode of psychosis. The article also presents key points for future research studies on this topic.

D’AGATI, PITZIANTI, CURATOLO, PASINI: Department of Systems Medicine, Unit of Child Neurology and Psychiatry, “Tor Vergata” University, Rome, Italy

PASINI: Dipartimento di Salute Mentale, ASL Umbria

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Please send correspondence to: Elisa D’Agati, MD, Department of Systems Medicine, Unit of Child Neurology and Psychiatry, “Tor Vergata” University of Rome, Viale Oxford 81, 00133 Rome, Italy (e-mail:

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