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The Movement disorder associated with NMDAR antibody-encephalitis is complex and characteristic: an expert video-rating study
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  • Published on:
    The complex NMDAR-antibody associated movement disorder is highly-distinctive
    • James A Varley, Clinical DPhil student University of Oxford
    • Other Contributors:
      • Anthony E Lang, Professor
      • Kailash P Bhatia, Professor
      • Sarosh R Irani, Associate Professor

    We thoroughly enjoyed reading the comment on our paper which analysed expert ratings of the movement disorder associated with NMDAR antibody-encephalitis.1 Thompson et al’s elegant pathophysiological explanation provides an excellent framework of the most plausible neural structures involved in NMDAR-antibody encephalitis. Further, they note these movements can occur in semi-conscious patients, and this concurs well with the previous description of anti-gravity movements in the context of ‘status dissociatus’.2 A review of our 76 videos, revealed Thompson et al’s account of “variable, complex jerky semi-rhythmic movements….in the obtunded state” in 45 (59%) of cases. Therefore, this complex description was not present in almost half of patients. Furthermore, our recent clinical experiences note some NMDAR-antibody patients with abnormal movements but without obtundation: perhaps, given the known stepwise progression of many cases, this is a function of increasingly early disease recognition.3

    By contrast to Thompson et al, our published study design intentionally used conventional phenomenological terms to define the movement disorder associated with NMDAR antibody-encephalitis.1 This approach aimed to define a pragmatic method, available to all clinicians, which could identify and faithfully communicate this complex movement disorder, with the important aim of earlier disease recognition. The results identified a dominant set of recognised classifications – dyston...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.
  • Published on:
    Reply to: The Movement disorder associated with NMDAR antibody-encephalitis is complex and characteristic: an expert video-rating study
    • Philip D Thompson, Emeritus Professor of Neurology University of Adelaide
    • Other Contributors:
      • Thomas Kimber, Consultant Neurologist
      • Timothy Kleinig, Clinical Stroke director

    We read with interest the description of the movement disorder manifestations in patients with N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor antibody mediated encephalitis (NMDAR-AbE) by a panel of movement disorders experts (1). The authors conclude that the co-existence of dystonia, chorea and stereotypies within the same patient, variability in phenomenology within the course of a single day and evolution over time, are helpful pointers to the diagnosis of NMDAR-AbE and therefore early treatment. We agree with this conclusion. However, this analysis overlooks consideration of the distinctive, if not unique, phenomenology of the “classical” movement disorder of NMDAR-AbE (2).

    In our earlier description of this complex movement disorder we reported the presence of variable, complex, jerky semi-rhythmic bulbar and limb movements, associated with posturing and oculogyric crises, but in summarising the overall clinical syndrome we deliberately avoided conventional movement disorder terms because none captured the entire clinical picture (2). Classification of a movement disorder, particularly when complex, is guided by the most obvious, dominant or overwhelming clinical feature. The ‘classical’ movement disorder in NMDAR-AbE is complex but as acknowledged by the expert reviewers, is not typical of any of the movement disorder categories (1). Stereotypies are purposeless repetitive motor behaviours that occur when awake and are interrupted by a shift in attention or distraction. Dy...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.