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History of Neurology: Seminal Citations
October 2000

Cerebellar Ataxia

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Neurological Sciences, Rush Presbyterian-St Luke's Medical Center, Chicago, Ill.

Arch Neurol. 2000;57(10):1525-1527. doi:10.1001/archneur.57.10.1525

Ataxia [Greek. a, not, without + taxis, order] has been applied with a myriad of meanings,1 from syndrome (hereditary ataxias, cerebellar ataxias, sensory ataxias) to disease (Friedreich ataxia) to individual physical signs (gait ataxia, speech ataxia). As a clinical sign, ataxia is often used to characterize a disorder of movement without the loss of muscular strength or sensation, frequently termed incoordination. The importance of physical coordination for motion was described in detail by Duchenne in 1858 and later was applied to the clinical study of diseases of coordination by Babinski, Holmes, and André-Thomas. The significant role of coordination for motion was also evident from neurophysiologic experiments. Sherrington2 wrote in 1931, "Neurologic organization and coordination are inseparably one. . . . The nervous system always acts in the interest of coordination which is the expression of its intimate workings." The general imprecision of the use of ataxia provoked the poignant declaration of J. Barré3 in 1935 that "The term ataxia has been overused; excessive multiplication of different types has occurred, improperly enlarging its scope."

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