Cerebellar degeneration is a process in which neurons in the cerebellum - the area of the brain that controls coordination and balance - deteriorate and die. Diseases that cause cerebellar degeneration can also involve other areas of the central nervous system,including the spinal cord, medulla oblongata, cerebral cortex, and brain stem. Cerebellar degeneration may be the result of inherited genetic mutations that alter the normal production of specific proteins that are necessary for the survival of neurons.Associated diseases: Diseases that are specific to the brain, as well as diseases that occur in other parts of the body, can cause neurons to die in the cerebellum. Neurological diseases that feature cerebellar degeneration include:ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, when there is lack of blood flow or oxygen to the cerebellumcerebellar cortical atrophy, multisystem atrophy, and olivopontocerebellar degeneration, progressive degenerative disorders in which cerebellar degeneration is a key featureFriedreich’s ataxia, and other spinocerebellar ataxias, which are caused by inherited genetic mutations that result in ongoing loss of neurons in the cerebellum, brain stem, and spinal cordtransmissible spongiform encephalopathies (such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease) in which abnormal proteins cause inflammation in the brain, including the cerebellummultiple sclerosis, in which damage to the insulating membrane (myelin) that wraps around and protects nerve cells can involve the cerebellum Other diseases that can cause cerebellar degeneration include:chronic alcohol abuse that leads to temporary or permanent cerebellar damageparaneoplastic disorders, in which a malignancy (cancer) in other parts of the body produces substances that cause immune system cells to attack neurons in the cerebellum Symptoms of cerebellar degeneration: The most characteristic symptom of cerebellar degeneration is a wide-based, unsteady, lurching walk, often accompanied by a back and forth tremor in the trunk of the body. Other symptoms may include slow, unsteady and jerky movement of the arms or legs, slowed and slurred speech, and nystagmus -- rapid, small movements of the eyes.
The NINDS funds research to find the genes involved in diseases that cause cerebellar degeneration. Discovering these genes, identifying their mutations, and understanding how the abnormal proteins they produce cause cerebellar degeneration may eventually help scientists find ways to prevent, treat, and even cure the diseases that involve cerebellar degeneration.
National Ataxia Foundation (NAF)
Encourages and supports research into the hereditary ataxias, a group of chronic and progressive neurological disorders affecting coordination. Sponsors chapters and support groups throughout the U.S.A. and Canada. Publishes a quarterly newsletter and educational literature on the various forms of ataxia.
2600 Fernbrook Lane North
Minneapolis, MN 55447-4752
Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA)
National non-profit organization dedicated to the pursuit of educational, scientific and research activities leading to treatments for Friedreich's ataxia.
P.O. Box 1537
Springfield, VA 22151
Fax: (703) 425-0643
National Multiple Sclerosis Society
Funds research, helps families stay together, provides accurate and up-to-date information, helps with employment issues, offers free counseling, runs self-help groups, advocates for people with disabilities, and provides referrals to medical professionals.
733 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10017-3288
Tel: New York