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Learn About Huntington's Disease

Understanding Movement

Understanding movement is a crucial component to understanding Huntington’s Disease as this symptom can frequently cause the most confusion among caregivers and family members. Often, someone with HD will move—or not move—in such a way that an everyday interaction may be confused with carelessness, boredom, anger, depression, disinterest, or irritation. In most cases this type of interaction and the implied emotion can’t be helped because dystonia— muscle contractions that cause repetitive or twisting movements—is involuntary.

Movement cues from someone who has HD commonly include:

  • Hypomimia—a condition of reduced facial expressions.

  • Poor eye contact from motor impersistence.

  • Difficulty maintaining a smile during conversation.

  • Leaning to one side, slouching, or other changes in posture.

  • Loud, abrupt speech or responses.

  • Barely audible speech or a monotone voice and response.

These verbal and nonverbal traits are known as motor impersistence—a characteristic of HD’s movement disorder. While it’s easy to assume your friend or loved one with HD isn’t interested in speaking with you or engaging in a conversation, the exact opposite is frequently true.