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MDS 2022 | Impact of COVID-19 on the epidemiology of functional movement disorders

Alberto Espay, MD, MSc, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH, discusses the current epidemiological understanding of functional movement disorders. While functional movement disorders are common, they are likely underrecognized. The frequency among patients evaluated in movement disorder clinics is around 5% but is suspected of having increased in the setting of the post-COVID-19 pandemic. The reasons behind the increase in functional movement disorders prevalence worldwide are unknown but could be a result of COVID-19 infection or vaccination. A number of reports indicate that functional symptoms may follow COVID-19 vaccination. Still, it is important to note that vaccination did not cause functional movement disorders but could trigger the development of symptoms. Given the presence of significant vaccine hesitancy, a clear understanding of the relationship between functional movement disorders and COVID-19 vaccines is critical to the success of the global vaccination effort. This interview took place at the 2022 International Congress of Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders in Madrid, Spain.

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Prof. Espay has received grant support from the NIH and the Michael J Fox Foundation; personal compensation as a consultant/scientific advisory board member for Abbvie, Neuroderm, Neurocrine, Amneal, Acadia, Acorda, Kyowa Kirin, Sunovion, Lundbeck, and USWorldMeds; honoraria from Acadia, Sunovion, Amneal, USWorldMeds; and publishing royalties from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Cambridge University Press, and Springer. He cofounded REGAIN Therapeutics, owner of a patent application that covers synthetic soluble non-aggregating peptide analogs as a replacement treatment in proteinopathies. He serves on the editorial boards of the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, European Journal of Neurology, and JAMA Neurology.