The spinocerebellar ataxias

Clin Neuropharmacol. 2000 Nov-Dec;23(6):296-303. doi: 10.1097/00002826-200011000-00002.


The spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) are diseases characterized by the progressive degeneration and subsequent loss of neurons accompanied by reactive gliosis, degeneration of fibers from the deteriorating neurons, and clinical symptoms reflecting the locations of the lost neurons. The degenerative changes affect specific neuronal groups while others remain preserved, and these diseases can therefore be viewed as system degenerations. The SCAs result from either genetically transmitted diseases with dominant inheritance or unknown causes with sporadic occurrence. Most of these disorders affect the cerebellum and its pathways, resulting in progressive deterioration of cerebellar function manifested by increasing unsteadiness of gait, incoordination of limb movements with impairment of skilled movements such as handwriting, and a distinctive dysarthria. Other neuronal systems are affected in some of these disorders, notably the corticospinal pathway, basal ganglia, and autonomic nuclei of the brain stem and spinal cord.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Multiple System Atrophy / genetics
  • Multiple System Atrophy / pathology
  • Multiple System Atrophy / physiopathology
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias* / genetics
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias* / pathology
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias* / physiopathology