History And Definitions

Apraxia is a term that is applied to a diverse set of syndromes. However, this discussion will focus predominantly on limb apraxia. This term is defined as an inability to correctly perform learned skilled movements with the arms in the absence of primary, sensory, or motor impairments. To be classified as an apraxia, a patient's inability to perform learned movements cannot be caused by weakness, ataxia, seizures, or the superimposition of involuntary movements such as tremor, dystonia, chorea, ballismus, athetosis, or myoclonus. Patients with severe cognitive, memory, motivational, and attention disorders may also have difficulty in performing skilled acts without being apraxic. Whereas the presence of these disorders does not preclude the presence of apraxia, before apraxia is diagnosed the clinician should be certain that these behavioral disorders do not fully account for the patient's inability to perform skilled acts.

There are several types of limb apraxia that are defined by both the nature of the errors made by patients and the means by which these errors are elicited on the neurological examination ( Table...,!:! ). Liepmann was the first to systematically study limb apraxia around the turn of the century. His thorough and insightful description of an Imperial Counselor who had suffered a stroke and demonstrated "mixed aphasia and post-stroke dementia" provided the fundamental basis for models of apraxia. Liepmann discussed three types of apraxia: melokinetic (or limb-kinetic), ideomotor, and ideational. Limb-kinetic apraxia has since been considered an elemental motor disorder rather than a disorder of learned skilled movements and will not be further discussed in this chapter. Since Liepmann's initial descriptions, three other forms of apraxia, designated disassociation apraxia, conduction apraxia, and conceptual apraxia, have also been described and are included here.


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