Movement disorders in spinocerebellar ataxias

Mov Disord. 2011 Apr;26(5):792-800. doi: 10.1002/mds.23584. Epub 2011 Mar 2.


Autosomal dominant spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) can present with a large variety of noncerebellar symptoms, including movement disorders. In fact, movement disorders are frequent in many of the various SCA subtypes, and they can be the presenting, dominant, or even isolated disease feature. When combined with cerebellar ataxia, the occurrence of a specific movement disorder can provide a clue toward the underlying genotype. There are reasons to believe that for some coexisting movement disorders, the cerebellar pathology itself is the culprit, for example, in the case of cortical myoclonus and perhaps dystonia. However, movement disorders in SCAs are more likely related to extracerebellar pathology, and imaging and neuropathological data indeed show involvement of other parts of the motor system (substantia nigra, striatum, pallidum, motor cortex) in some SCA subtypes. When confronted with a patient with an isolated movement disorder, that is, without ataxia, there is currently no reason to routinely screen for SCA gene mutations, the only exceptions being SCA2 in autosomal dominant parkinsonism (particularly in Asian patients) and SCA17 in the case of a Huntington's disease-like presentation without an HTT mutation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Movement Disorders / classification
  • Movement Disorders / etiology*
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias / complications*
  • Spinocerebellar Ataxias / diagnosis