Joseph's disease: clinical and pathological studies in a Japanese family

Ann Neurol. 1986 Feb;19(2):152-7. doi: 10.1002/ana.410190207.


Joseph's disease is a hereditary ataxia found among descendants of Portuguese from the Azores Islands. We describe the clinical and pathological features of 4 members of a Japanese family who were diagnosed as having Joseph's disease. The illness began with cerebellar ataxia between the ages of 18 and 45 years. Nystagmus, dysarthria, and pyramidal signs were early manifestations. External ophthalmoplegia, dystonia and/or athetotic movements, and muscular atrophy appeared in the late stages. Neuropathological findings in one patient revealed degeneration of the dentatorubral and pallidoluysian systems, substantia nigra, pontocerebellar system, Clarke's column and spinocerebellar tracts, and anterior horn cells, as well as the cranial nuclei in the brainstem. Neurons in the inferior olivary nuclei, Purkinje's and granule cells, the cerebral cortex, thalamus, and striatum were spared. Involvement of the dentatorubral and pallidoluysian systems seems to be a characteristic feature of this disease in Japan.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / epidemiology
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / genetics*
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / pathology
  • Female
  • Genes, Dominant
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle Spasticity / genetics*
  • Muscle Spasticity / pathology
  • Nervous System / pathology*
  • Pedigree
  • Syndrome