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April 1997

Impaired Upper Limb Coordination in Alcoholic Cerebellar Degeneration

Author Affiliations

From the Psychology Service, Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Medical Center (Drs Johnson-Greene and Adams); and the Division of Neuropsychology, Department of Psychiatry (Drs Johnson-Greene and Adams), University of Michigan Alcohol Research Center (Drs Johnson-Greene, Adams, Gilman, and Junck and Mss Kluin, Martorello, and Heumann), Department of Neurology (Drs Johnson-Greene, Gilman, and Junck and Mss Kluin, Martorello, and Heumann), and Division of Speech Pathology, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (Ms Kluin), University of Michigan Medical Center, Ann Arbor.

Arch Neurol. 1997;54(4):436-439. doi:10.1001/archneur.1997.00550160070018

Background:  Alcoholic cerebellar degeneration (ACD) is a disorder resulting from severe chronic alcoholism and malnutrition and is characterized by cognitive disturbances, ataxia of gait, and truncal instability, with generally preserved coordination of the upper extremities.

Objectives:  To determine whether cognitive deficits in patients with ACD are the same as those seen in patients with severe chronic alcoholism without ACD and to determine whether upper limb motor coordination is different in the 2 groups.

Design:  We examined cognitive function and upper limb coordination in 56 patients with severe chronic alcoholism, 13 with ACD and 43 without ACD, who had comparable levels of total alcohol intake. Neuropsychological and motor function was measured using an expanded Halstead-Reitan Neuropsychological Test Battery, including the Tactual Performance Test and Grooved Pegboard Test.

Results:  Neither group had impaired coordination of upper limb function on clinical neurological examination. Both groups had impaired performance on neuropsychological tests involving executive function, but the patients with ACD had greater impairment of upper limb coordination than the patients without ACD as measured by the Tactual Performance Test and Grooved Pegboard Test.

Conclusions:  The findings suggest that these 2 groups have similar cognitive deficits but that upper extremity motor functions are more significantly impaired in the ACD group and that quantitative tasks of motor function reveal these impairments.