×
Brain Diseases

Ataxia

Back to Brain Diseases

Ataxia and Cerebellar and Spinocerebellar Degeneration Overview

Most disorders that result in ataxia occur when brain cells in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement, deteriorate. These changes in the nervous system, called cerebellar and spinocerebellar degeneration, lead to failure of muscle control in the arms and legs, causing issues with coordination and balance. The word ataxia can be used to describe these symptoms as well as the family of hereditary movement disorders, but it is not a diagnosis on its own. Read more about ataxia and the brain and nervous system disorders that cause it below.

What is ataxia? Patient using walker with medical practitioner nearby.

10

For hereditary ataxias, the prevalence rate is 10 cases per 100,000 individuals

15,000+

Spinocerebellar ataxias affect an estimated 15,000-20,000 people in the U.S.

26

In children, the prevalence of ataxia is 26 cases per 100,000 individuals

Ataxia Risk Factors

Many ataxias are hereditary, meaning they are inherited through a defective gene passed down from one or both parents. They are then classified by the location of the defective chromosome and the pattern of inheritance—or the way the disease is passed from parent to child. 

Autosomal dominant, or dominantly inherited ataxias, are caused by a defective gene passed down from one parent.

Autosomal recessive forms of ataxia must be passed through a defective gene carried by both parents. 

An estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people in the U.S. have spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA), a group of dominantly inherited types of ataxia. Tens of thousands more people have recessive, sporadic, or other forms of ataxia. The most common hereditary ataxias are Machado-Joseph disease and Friedreich’s ataxia. Ataxia-telangiectasia, which affects muscle movement and speech, is an inherited form of ataxia that often begins before age five. 

In addition to inherited forms of ataxia, sporadic ataxias can occur with no apparent family history of ataxia. Ataxia can also be acquired due to an external cause or underlying condition, such as a virus or infection, stroke, multiple sclerosis, tumors, and peripheral neuropathy. Other contributing conditions include alcoholism, metabolic disorders, and vitamin deficiencies.

Ataxia Symptoms and Diagnosis

Ataxia Treatment Options

Ataxia Research Efforts

Support Brain Research

We need your help to continue to fund brain research projects and find cures. Stand with us in the fight against brain diseases and disorders.

Together, we can build a future without brain disease.

Subscribe

Receive news and updates on research breakthroughs.

Additional Brain Disease Information

Explore more brain disease information, research, and stories.

BLOG

News and Articles

Discover the latest news in brain disease research, hear stories from people affected by brain disease and their caregivers, read up on brain disease-specific information, and more.

December Brain News Round-Up

Read More

Disease Connections: Migraine and Epilepsy

Read More

Giving Tuesday: 6 Ways You Can Support Research and People Living With Brain Disease

Read More

Deep Brain Stimulation

Read More

November Brain News Round-Up

Read More
Lidia Maria Moura, MD, MPH, PhD

Featured Researcher: Lidia Maria Moura, MD, MPH, PhD, Center for Value-Based Health Care and Sciences at Massachusetts General Hospital

Read More
Webinar Recap Cure One, Cure Many Connections Between Brain Diseases

Cure One, Cure Many: Connections Between Brain Diseases

Read More
October Brain News Round-Up

October Brain News Round-Up

Read More
How Gene Therapy and Research Is Helping Us Treat Brain Disease

How Gene Therapy and Research Is Helping Us Treat Brain Disease

Read More
Understanding Caregiving

Understanding Caregiving & How to Support Caregivers

Read More

September Brain News Round-Up

Read More

Receiving a Brain Disease Diagnosis

Read More

Caring for Someone With Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Read More

ALSP: A Family’s Journey With a Rare Brain Disease

Read More

August Brain News Round-Up

Read More

Concussions in Sports

Read More

World Brain Day: 4 Simple Ways to Support Brain Health

Read More

July Brain News Round-Up

Read More

How Mobile Stroke Units Are Transforming Early Stroke Response and Treatment

Read More
Autism research

Research in Autism: What’s Giving Us Hope?

Read More
June 2022 May Health Round Up

June Brain News Round-Up

Read More
NGRG 2022 grants

Meet the Researchers: 2022 Next Generation Research Grant Recipients

Read More
Learning the Signs and Symptoms of Brain Disease

Knowing the Signs and Symptoms of Brain Disease

Read More
May Brain Health News Round Up

May Brain News Round-Up

Read More
History of Brain Disease Research

History of Brain Disease Research: 6 Incredible Advancements

Read More
Research in Parkinson's Disease Webinar

Research in Parkinson’s Disease: What’s Giving Us Hope?

Read More
April News Round Up, 2022

April Brain News Round-Up: New Links Between Stress, Emotions, and Brain Disease

Read More
Dr. Stephen L. Hauser

Stephen L. Hauser, MD: Career-Long Dedication Leads to Breakthrough Research in Multiple Sclerosis

Read More
Challenging Dystonia to a Duel

Challenging Dystonia: A Story of Transformation and Perseverance

Read More
Why Sleep Matters for Brain Health

Why Sleep Is Important for Brain Health

Read More
ABF C2C 2022 Award winners

Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller Rogen to Accept Award at Commitment to Cures on April 6 in Support of Brain Disease Research

Read More
March 2022 Brain News Round Up

Brain News Round-Up: Discovering New Connections in Brain Disease Research

Read More
Barbara S. Giesser, 2022 Ted M. Burns Humanism in Neurology Award Winner

Announcing the 2022 Ted M. Burns Humanism in Neurology Award Recipient: Barbara S. Giesser, MD, FAAN

Read More
multiple sclerosis research

Research in Multiple Sclerosis: What’s Giving Us Hope?

Read More
February 2020 Brain Health Round Up

Brain News Roundup: A Path to Prevention and Better Treatments

Read More
2022 Cure One, Cure Many Award

Recipients Selected for the American Brain Foundation 2022 Cure One, Cure Many Award for the Early Diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia

Read More
Neuroinflammation

Disease Connections: Neuroinflammation and Neurodegeneration

Read More
Research in Dementia

Research in Dementia: What’s Giving Us Hope?

Read More
January 2021 Brain Health Roundup

Brain News Round-Up: New Studies Offer Insights into the Brain

Read More
American Brain Foundation;s 2022 Research Focus Areas

American Brain Foundation’s 2022 Research Focus Areas

Read More
2021 Year in Review

Year in Review: American Brain Foundation 2021

Read More
2021 Brain Disease Research Recap

2021 Brain Disease Research Recap

Read More
4H Leukodystrophy: Yaya's Story

Facing Rare Disease: A Search for Support, Answers, and Treatment Alternatives

Read More

Brain News Round-Up: Unraveling the Brain

Read More
November 2021 Brain Health Round Up

Brain Health Round-Up: Paving the Way For Potential Treatments

Read More
Advice on being a caregiver

7 Things a Caregiver Should Know: Advice From Experienced Caregivers

Read More
Why We Believe in Cure One Cur eMany

Why We Believe in “Cure One, Cure Many”

Read More
October 2021 Brain Health Round Up

Brain Health Round-Up: Moving Toward Cures for Brain Disease

Read More
From Daughter to Caregiver: The Struggle

From Daughter to Caregiver: A Story of Change and Choices

Read More
2021 NGRG Event Recap

Next Generation of Brain Disease Research Event Recap

Read More
Webinar on how tragedy affects the brain

Healing Your Brain After Loss: How Grief Rewires the Brain

Read More
Meningiomas

Living With Meningiomas: A Story of Letting Go

Read More
Research on Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosis

Using Data Sets to Improve Diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia

Read More
Healthcare Disparities Research

Prioritizing Healthcare Disparities Research: Groundbreaking American Brain Foundation-Funded Awards

Read More
On aducanumab

About Aducanumab, the Controversial Drug Bringing Hope for Alzheimer’s Disease

Read More
August 2021 Brain Health Round-Up

Brain Health Round-Up: Uncovering Answers to Enduring Brain Disease Mysteries

Read More

Living with Brain Malformation: A Story of Survival and Growth

Read More
Goadsby Headache Research Fund

Announcing the Goadsby Headache Research Fund

Read More
Linda LaRowe

Living and Working With MS: A Story of Self-advocacy and Perseverance

Read More
Suzanne Schindler and her diagnostic test for Alzheimer's

Developing a Diagnostic Test for Alzheimer’s Disease

Read More
Brain Health Round Up July 2021

Brain Health Round-Up: Life-Changing Therapies Highlight the Power of Research

Read More
Brain Health Round-Up June 2021

Brain Health Round-Up: Hope for People Affected by Brain Disease

Read More
Ted Burns Award 2021 winner John Quinlan MD

Announcing the 2021 Ted M. Burns Humanism in Neurology Award Recipient: John Quinlan, MD

Read More
Ben LeNail and X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy

From Diagnosis to Advocacy: A Journey with a Rare Brain Disease

Read More
Class of 2021 Next Generation Research Grants

2021 Next Generation Research Grant Recipients

Read More
Debra Myerson, stroke survivor

Recovering from Stroke: Learning How to Embrace New Identities

Read More
Commitment to Cures 2021 Recap

Commitment to Cures 2021 Was a Success

Read More
Brain Health Round Up

Brain Health Round-Up: Experimental Treatments Bring Hope

Read More
2022 Cure One, Cure Many Award

Groundbreaking research award established to discover an accurate method of diagnosing Lewy body dementia

Read More

Star-Studded Virtual Event to Recognize Breakthroughs in Brain Disease Research on April 21

Read More
April 2021 Brain Health Round-Up

Brain Health Round-Up: Groundbreaking Treatments and Tests

Read More
Why we do brain disease research

The Reasons Behind Brain Disease Research

Read More
multiple sclerosis treatment

Improving Multiple Sclerosis Treatment

Read More
March 2021 Brain Health Round-Up

Brain Health Round-Up: Improving Patient Outcomes

Read More
Kelly with glioblastoma

Living with Glioblastoma: A Story of Laughter and Advocacy

Read More
A career in traumatic brain disease research

Launching A Career in Traumatic Brain Injury Research

Read More
recent brain research

Brain Health Round-Up: Recent Brain Research

Read More
Brain disease and memory loss research

Identifying and Improving Memory Loss

Read More
The story of a brain disease caregiver

Caregiving for Dementia: A Story of Strength and Grace

Read More
January 2021 Brain Health Round-Up

Brain Health Round-Up: Brain Disease Connections

Read More
2020 Year in Review

Year in Review: American Brain Foundation 2020

Read More
A New Method of Dysphagia Treatment

Developing A Treatment for Disordered Swallowing

Read More
brain disease innovation

Brain Health Round-Up: Brain Disease Innovation

Read More
Finding a Marker for Tourette Syndrom

Pinpointing the Mechanism Behind Tourette Syndrome

Read More
Maureen Kessler with Lewy Body Dementia

Living with Lewy Body Dementia: A Story of Persistence and Tenacity

Read More
Joey Gaines and his struggle with Epilepsy

Overcoming Epilepsy: A Story of Grit and Faith

Read More
November 2020 Brain Health Round-Up

Brain Health Round-Up: Brain Health in the Home

Read More
Lewy body dementia and the lack of a biomarker

The Search for a Lewy Body Dementia Biomarker

Read More
Dementia: A Father and Son figtht

A Father and Son Take on Dementia

Read More
Brain Health Roundup: Breaking the Patient Barriers

Brain Health Round-Up: Breaking the Patient Barriers

Read More

Living with Epilepsy: A Story of Persistence and Positivity

Read More
Cindy McCain

Cindy McCain: Supporting Brain Disease Research in Honor of Her Husband’s Legacy

Read More

How an American Brain Foundation Research Grant Furthers Brain Disease Research

Read More
Neurodevelopmental disabilities and COVID-19

Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and COVID-19

Read More
Alzheimer's and COVID-19

Alzheimer’s and COVID-19

Read More
September 2020 Brain Health Round Up

Brain Health Round-Up: Helping Others with Brain Disease

Read More
Next Generation Research Grants

In Conversation: Next Generation Research Grants

Read More

New Documentary ‘Robin’s Wish’ Reveals Robin Williams’ Battle with Deadly Brain Disease

Read More
Surviving Moyamoya Stroke

Surviving Stroke: A Story of Perseverance and Grace

Read More
Behind the Cure One Cure Many philosophy

What Does it Mean to “Cure One, Cure Many”?

Read More
COVID-19 and Brain Disease

How COVID-19 Affects Brain Disease

Read More
Supporting brain disease research through funding

How the American Brain Foundation Supports Research

Read More
Next Gen Winners

2020 Next Generation Research Grant Recipients Announced

Read More
Parkinson's Disease and COVID-19

Parkinson’s Disease and COVID-19

Read More
Epilepsy during COVID-19

Epilepsy and COVID-19

Read More
Stroke Treatment during COVID-19

Stroke Treatment During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Read More
inequality

Our Statement on Injustice, Inequality and Racism.

Read More
Martin Shenkman

Estate Planning and COVID-19

Read More

Commitment to Cures is Now a Virtual Event

Read More
Mal de Débarquement Syndrome

Raising Awareness of MdDS on Rare Disease Day

Read More
Jim Cramer

Jim Cramer to Receive American Brain Foundation’s 2020 Ambassador Award for Migraine Advocacy

Read More

American Brain Foundation Announces New Board Leadership

Read More
Commitment to Cures 2020

American Brain Foundation Gala in Toronto to Recognize Breakthroughs in Brain Disease Research, Celebrate Advocates

Read More
Ted M. Burns

Announcing the Ted M. Burns Humanism in Neurology Award

Read More
Who is your hero in the fight against brain disease?

Honor your heroes in the fight against brain disease

Read More
Jerry Mendell, MD, FAAN

New Treatment for Spinal Muscular Atrophy

Read More

Help support the work of innovative researchers

Read More

Recognizing Leaders’ Commitment to Cures

Read More

California Researcher Wins $50,000 Sheila Essey Award: An Award for ALS Research

Read More

Missouri Researcher Awarded $100,000 Potamkin Prize for Dementia Research

Read More
2019 ABF Researchers

Investing in the Next Generation of Researchers

Read More

Honoring Leaders in the Fight to Defeat Brain Disease

Read More
Photographed: 2018 Research Award Recipients

Researchers Join the Fight to Defeat Brain Disease

Read More

Broadening Impact During Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month

Read More

Missouri Researcher Wins $50,000 Sheila Essey Award: An Award for ALS Research

Read More

Illinois Researcher Awarded $100,000 Potamkin Prize for Dementia Research

Read More

International Sponsor Council Focuses on Brain Health as Part of Its Athlete Health Initiative

Read More

Alzheimer’s advocate calls caregivers “unrecognized victims”

Read More

New Awards to Advance Research in Cognitive Aging and Age-related Memory Loss

Read More

Foundation to present prestigious Public Leadership in Neurology Award to B. Smith and Dan Gasby

Read More

Prominent African American Advocate Calls Brain Health the Greatest 21st Century Civil Rights Issue

Read More

New Award to Advance Research in Stroke, Cerebrovascular Disease

Read More

Robin Williams’ Widow Joins Forces with American Brain Foundation

Read More