Directed Neurological Examination

Because the diagnosis of apraxia is in part a diagnosis of exclusion, the clinician must perform a general neurological examination to determine whether the abnormal motor performance can be completely accounted for by nonapraxic motor, sensory, or cognitive disorders. Although the presence of elemental motor defects does not prohibit or preclude praxis testing, the examiner must interpret the results of praxis testing in light of the knowledge gained from the neurological examination.

When possible, both the right and left arms and hands should be tested. When one arm is weak or has another motor disorder that would interfere with testing, the nonparetic limb should be tested. Testing of praxis involves selectively varying input as well as varying task demands. If possible, the same items should be used for all subtests. First, patients should be requested to pantomime to verbal command (e.g., "Show me how you would use a bread knife to cut a slice of bread"). Both transitive gestures (i.e., using a tool and instrument) and intransitive gestures (i.e., communicative gestures such as waving good-bye) should be tested. The clinician should instruct the patient not to use the body part as the tool but instead pantomime the use of the tool. In addition, patients should be asked to imitate the examiner performing both meaningful and meaningless gestures. Independent of the results of the pantomime-to-command and imitation tests, patients should also be allowed to see and hold actual tools or objects and to demonstrate how to use the tool or object while they are seeing and holding these implements. In addition to having patients pantomime to verbal command, the examiner may also want to show them pictures of tools or objects for pantomime. The examiner should also allow patients to view real tools or the objects that tools work on (e.g., nails) and, without allowing them to hold the tool or object, ask them to pantomime the action associated with the tool or object. It may be valuable to see whether the patient can name or recognize transitive and intransitive pantomimes made by the examiner and can discriminate between well and poorly performed pantomimes. Patients should also be asked to perform a task that requires several sequential motor acts (e.g., making a sandwich). Lastly, the examiner may want to determine whether the patient can match tools with the objects on which they operate (e.g., given a partially driven nail, will he select a hammer?) and whether a patient can develop tools to solve mechanical problems.

The types of errors made by patients with apraxia often define the nature of the praxis defect. Therefore, it is important to categorize errors, which can be done using a scoring system that classifies praxis errors into either content or production errors. Content errors include semantically related productions (pantomiming playing a trumpet rather than a trombone) and unrelated responses (e.g., making hammering movements rather than those associated with a trombone). Production errors include assuming the wrong posture, moving the incorrect joints, improperly coordinating multijoint movements, assuming an incorrect orientation, and making timing errors (.Tabje.4-2 ). Each gesture produced by the patient may contain one or more praxis errors (see Rothi and colleagues [io] and Poizner and associates'^] ).

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