The authors report a German family with autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia tightly linked to the spinocerebellar ataxia type 5 (SCA5) locus (multipoint lod score 5.76). The phenotype is characterized by a purely cerebellar syndrome with a downbeat nystagmus occurring prior to the development of other features. Imaging studies demonstrated cortical cerebellar atrophy. Progression is slow even in patients with a disease onset during the second decade. The age at onset varies from 15 to 50 years.