PhD ceremony Dr. Marieke Kuiper

On October 31, Marieke Kuiper defended her thesis “The clinical assessment of motor behaviour in developing children” successfully. Her promotors Prof. M.A.J. de Koning-Tijssen and Prof. dr. A. F. Bos, and copromotor Dr. D. A. Sival were present.


In this thesis, we clinically assess the motor behaviour of healthy and brain damaged children with movement disorder rating scales. By doing this, we aim to elucidate the influence of age on movement disorder rating scales, which leads to better application of rating scales in children with a movement disorder.

In the first part of the thesis, we assess the motor behaviour of healthy children (0-16 years). From new-born age, we observe motor patterns that show similarities with features of movement disorders (dystonia, chorea and myoclonus). As the child gets older, the observed features change (dystonia and ataxia), decrease and disappear before adolescence. The similarities between healthy motor behaviour and movement disorders can be explained by the maturation of the central nervous system. Maturational processes lead to more precise and coordinated goal-directed movements, resulting in the disappearance of the similarities with movement disorders. Present insight improves discrimination between healthy and abnormal motor behaviour, and also improves the assessment of abnormal movements.

In the second part of the thesis, we implement the insights from the first part to two different groups of children who are at risk of developing a movement disorder, namely 1. children who suffered from birth asphyxia and 2. children who were chronically exposed to lead pollution. Outcomes show that the majority of the children in both groups show seemingly normal motor behaviour. However, clinical assessment with movement disorder rating scales reveal higher scores than healthy children, but lower scores than the pathological threshold. Future research is needed to see whether these differences persist during adulthood.

Marieke Kuiper (1989) studied Human Movement Studies (BSc) at the University of Groningen. She started her PhD during her Master's program in Medicine at the Department of Neurology and research institute BCN-BRAIN at the University Medical Center Groningen. Currently, dr. Kuipers works as a resident at the St. Antonius Hospital in Utrecht.