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Concept: Ataxia

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Vitamin B12 is one of the essential vitamins affecting various systems of the body. Reports of psychiatric disorders due to its deficiency mostly focus on middle aged and elderly patients. Here we report a case of vitamin B 12 deficiency in a 16-year old, male adolescent who presented with mixed mood disorder symptoms with psychotic features. Chief complaints were “irritability, regressive behavior, apathy, crying and truancy” which lasted for a year. Premorbid personality was unremarkable with no substance use/exposure or infections. No stressors were present. The patient was not vegetarian. Past medical history and family history was normal. Neurological examination revealed glossitis, ataxia, rigidity in both shoulders, cog-wheel rigidity in the left elbow, bilateral problems of coordination in cerebellar examination, reduced swinging of the arms and masked face. Romberg’s sign was present. Laboratory evaluations were normal. Endoscopy and biopsy revealed atrophy of the gastric mucosa with Helicobacter Pylori colonization. Schilling test was suggestive of malabsorbtion. He was diagnosed with Mood disorder with Mixed, Psychotic Features due to Vitamin B12 Deficiency and risperidone 0.5 mg/day and intramuscular vitamin B12 500 mcg/day were started along with referral for treatment of Helicobacter pylori. A visit on the second week revealed no psychotic features. Romberg’s sign was negative and cerebellar tests were normal. Extrapyramidal symptoms were reduced while Vitamin B12 levels were elevated. Risperidone was stopped and parenteral Vitamin B12 treatment was continued with monthly injections for 3 months. Follow-up endoscopy and biopsy at the first month demonstrated eradication of H. pylori. He was followed monthly for another 6 months and psychiatric symptoms did not recur at the time of last evaluation. Despite limitations, this case may underline the observation that mood disorders with psychotic features especially with accompanying extrapyramidal symptoms lacking a clear etiology may be rare manifestation of vitamin B12 and/or folate deficiency in children and adolescents and be potentially amenable to treatment.

Concepts: Vitamin, Ataxia, Helicobacter pylori, Folic acid, Megaloblastic anemia, Vitamin B12, B vitamins, Vitamin B12 deficiency

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Exercise has been argued to enhance cognitive function and slow progressive neurodegenerative disease. Although exercise promotes neurogenesis, oligodendrogenesis and adaptive myelination are also significant contributors to brain repair and brain health. Nonetheless, the molecular details underlying these effects remain poorly understood. Conditional ablation of the Snf2h gene impairs cerebellar development producing mice with poor motor function, progressive ataxia, and death between postnatal days 25-45. Here, we show that voluntary running induced an endogenous brain repair mechanism that resulted in a striking increase in hindbrain myelination and the long-term survival of Snf2h cKO mice. Further experiments identified the VGF growth factor as a major driver underlying this effect. VGF neuropeptides promote oligodendrogenesis in vitro, whereas Snf2h cKO mice treated with full-length VGF-encoding adenoviruses removed the requirement of exercise for survival. Together, these results suggest that VGF delivery could represent a therapeutic strategy for cerebellar ataxia and other pathologies of the CNS.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Psychology, Neuron, Brain, Cognition, Neurology, Ataxia, Cerebellum

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Spinocerebellar ataxias are autosomal dominant diseases, associated in some types with a CAG repeat expansion, and characterised by a progressive loss of motor function. Currently, as there is no cure for most ataxias, treatment predominantly involves physical therapy. Various symptomatic drug treatments have been tried; however, published clinical studies have provided inconsistent results, likely due to small sample sizes, mixed patient populations and insensitive or subjective assessment scales. SCA1(154Q) transgenic mice display motor function impairments and ultimately a reduced number of cerebellar Purkinje neurons-characteristics comparable to most forms of sporadic and hereditary ataxias. We monitored motor function in SCA1(154Q) mice from 5 to 20 weeks of age and assessed the efficacy of four potential cerebellar modulatory drugs in attenuating deficits in rotor-rod performance. The drugs riluzole, amantadine, zolpidem and buspirone were selected based on their different mechanisms of action and their Food and Drug Administration (FDA)/Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration approval for other indications. SCA1(154Q) and C57/Bl6 wild-type mice were administered with four ascending acute doses of each drug, over 2 days. Following each dose, mice were assesed for motor function on the accelerating rotor-rod. None of the four drugs attenuated motor deficts in SCA1(154Q) mice at any dose; at FDA equivalent and higher dose administration of zolpidem and buspirone led to sedation in both strains. Our results suggest that the aforementioned drugs are likely to be ineffective for symptomatic treatment of SCA1 and most other ataxic patients and emphasise the need for comphrehensive drug studies prior to clinical use.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Clinical trial, Sample size, Therapy, Assessment, Ataxia, Spinocerebellar ataxia, Food and Drug Administration

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Background and purpose: The authors previously reported on the functional recovery of an adult with chronic, severe ataxia secondary to traumatic brain injury (TBI) after 28 sessions of trunk stabilization and locomotor training (LT). The purpose of this case report is to describe this individual’s functional abilities 3.5 years after the intervention. Case description: Thirteen months post-TBI and not expected to be a functional ambulator, an adult male participated in a trunk stabilization and LT intervention. After the intervention, he continued to exercise in a hospital-based fitness program and received additional physical therapy. Evaluation of balance, gait, trunk performance, self-reported function, and quality of life was performed at 6 weeks (baseline), 1 year, and 3.5 years after completing the intervention. Outcomes: Balance, gait, and function improved. Resting left transverse abdominis thickness, measured using ultrasound imaging, increased as did left-side bridge and trunk flexion endurance. He increased community participation and expressed general satisfaction with his overall quality of life. Discussion and conclusion: In the 3.5 years after participation in an intervention of trunk stabilization and LT this adult became an independent limited community ambulator. Persons with severe ataxia secondary to TBI may continue to improve many years after injury.

Concepts: Brain, Traumatic brain injury, Exercise, Ataxia, Programming language

28

Machado-Joseph disease (MJD), also known as spinocerebellar ataxia type 3 (SCA3), is a fatal, dominant neurodegenerative disorder caused by the polyglutamine-expanded protein ataxin-3. Clinical manifestations include cerebellar ataxia and pyramidal signs culminating in severe neuronal degeneration. Currently, there is no therapy able to modify disease progression. In the present study, we aimed at investigating one of the most severely affected brain regions in the disorder-the cerebellum-and the behavioral defects associated with the neuropathology in this region. For this purpose, we injected lentiviral vectors encoding full-length human mutant ataxin-3 in the mouse cerebellum of 3-week-old C57/BL6 mice. We show that circumscribed expression of human mutant ataxin-3 in the cerebellum mediates within a short time frame-6 weeks, the development of a behavioral phenotype including reduced motor coordination, wide-based ataxic gait, and hyperactivity. Furthermore, the expression of mutant ataxin-3 resulted in the accumulation of intranuclear inclusions, neuropathological abnormalities, and neuronal death. These data show that lentiviral-based expression of mutant ataxin-3 in the mouse cerebellum induces localized neuropathology, which is sufficient to generate a behavioral ataxic phenotype. Moreover, this approach provides a physiologically relevant, cost-effective and time-effective animal model to gain further insights into the pathogenesis of MJD and for the evaluation of experimental therapeutics of MJD.

Concepts: Gene, Brain, Human brain, Neurodegenerative disorders, Ataxia, Cerebellum, Spinocerebellar ataxia, Cerebellar ataxia

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The spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) are a clinically, genetically, and neuropathologically heterogeneous group of neurological disorders defined by variable degrees of cerebellar ataxia often accompanied by additional cerebellar and non-cerebellar symptoms that, in many cases, defy differentiation based on clinical characterisation alone. The clinical symptoms are triggered by neurodegeneration of the cerebellum and its relay connexions. The current identification of at least 43 SCA subtypes and the causative molecular defects in 27 of them refine the clinical diagnosis, provide molecular testing of at risk, a/pre-symptomatic, prenatal or pre-implantation and facilitate genetic counselling. The recent discovery of new causative SCA genes along with the respective scientific advances is uncovering high complexity and altered molecular pathways involved in the mechanisms by which the mutant gene products cause pathogenesis. Fortunately, the intensive ongoing clinical and neurogenetic research together with the applied molecular approaches is sure to yield scientific advances that will be translated into developing effective treatments for the spinocerebellar ataxias and other similar neurological conditions.

Concepts: Central nervous system, DNA, Gene, Genetics, Neurology, Ataxia, Cerebellum, Spinocerebellar ataxia

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BACKGROUND: The autosomal dominant spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) confine a group of rare and heterogeneous disorders, which present with progressive ataxia and numerous other features e.g. peripheral neuropathy, macular degeneration and cognitive impairment, and a subset of these disorders is caused by CAG-repeat expansions in their respective genes. The diagnosing of the SCAs is often difficult due to the phenotypic overlap among several of the subtypes and with other neurodegenerative disorders e.g. Huntington’s disease, CASE PRESENTATION: We report a family in which the proband had rapidly progressing cognitive decline and only subtle cerebellar symptoms from age 42. Sequencing of the TATA-box binding protein gene revealed a modest elongation of the CAG/CAA-repeat of only two repeats above the non-pathogenic threshold of 41, confirming a diagnosis of SCA17. Normally, repeats within this range show reduced penetrance and result in a milder disease course with slower progression and later age of onset. Thus, this case presented with an unusual phenotype. CONCLUSIONS: The current case highlights the diagnostic challenge of neurodegenerative disorders and the need for a thorough clinical and paraclinical examination of patients presenting with rapid cognitive decline to make a precise diagnosis on which further genetic counseling and initiation of treatment modalities can be based.

Concepts: Gene, Evolution, Phenotype, Neurodegenerative disorders, Ataxia, Macular degeneration, Huntington's disease, Spinocerebellar ataxia

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Spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) are a heterogeneous group of autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxias clinically characterized by progressive ataxia, dysarthria and a range of other concomitant neurological symptoms. Only a few studies include detailed characterization of speech symptoms in SCA. Speech symptoms in SCA resemble ataxic dysarthria but symptoms related to phonation may be more prominent. One study to date has shown an association between differences in speech and voice symptoms related to genotype. More studies of speech and voice phenotypes are motivated, to possibly aid in clinical diagnosis. In addition, instrumental speech analysis has been demonstrated to be a reliable measure that may be used to monitor disease progression or therapy outcomes in possible future pharmacological treatments. Intervention by speech and language pathologists should go beyond assessment. Clinical guidelines for management of speech, communication and swallowing need to be developed for individuals with progressive cerebellar ataxia.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Medicine, Greek loanwords, Ataxia, Spinocerebellar ataxia, Cerebellar ataxia, Dysarthria, Systemic atrophies primarily affecting the central nervous system

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No existing medication has yet been shown to convincingly improve cerebellar ataxia. Therefore, the identification of new drugs for its symptomatic treatment is desirable. The objective of this case series was to evaluate the efficacy of treatment of cerebellar ataxia with the amino acid acetyl-DL-leucine (Tanganil). Thirteen patients (eight males, median age 51 years) with degenerative cerebellar ataxia of different etiologies (SCA1/2, ADCA, AOA, SAOA) were treated with acetyl-DL-leucine (5 g/day) without titration for 1 week. Motor function was evaluated by changes in the Scale for the Rating and Assessment of Ataxia (SARA) and in the Spinocerebellar Ataxia Functional Index (SCAFI) during treatment compared to a baseline examination. Quality of life (EuroQol-5D-3L) and side effects were also assessed. Mean total SARA decreased remarkably (p = 0.002) from a baseline of 16.1 ± 7.1 to 12.8 ± 6.8 (mean ± SD) on medication. There were also significant improvements in sub-scores for gait (p = 0.022), speech (p = 0.007), finger-chase (p = 0.042), nose-finger-test (p = 0.035), rapid-alternating-movements (p = 0.002) and heel-to-shin (p = 0.018). Furthermore, patients showed better performance in the SCAFI consisting of the 8-m-walking-time (8 MW, p = 0.003), 9-Hole-Peg-Test of the dominant hand (9HPTD, p = 0.011) and the PATA rate (p = 0.005). Quality of life increased during treatment (p = 0.003). No side effects were reported. In conclusion, acetyl-DL-leucine significantly improved ataxic symptoms without side effects and therefore showed a good risk-benefit profile. These findings need to be confirmed in placebo-controlled trials.

Concepts: Better, Amino acid, Amine, Improve, Medical terms, Ataxia, Spinocerebellar ataxia, Cerebellar ataxia

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Clinicoanatomic correlation in the spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA) and Friedreich’s ataxia (FRDA) is difficult as these diseases differentially affect multiple sites in the central and peripheral nervous systems. A new way to study cerebellar ataxia is the systematic analysis of the “reciprocal cerebellar circuitry” that consists of tightly organized reciprocal connections between Purkinje cells, dentate nuclei (DN), and inferior olivary nuclei (ION). This circuitry is similar to but not identical with the “cerebellar module” in experimental animals. Neurohumoral transmitters operating in the circuitry are both inhibitory (γ-aminobutyric acid in corticonuclear and dentato-olivary fibers) and excitatory (glutamate in olivocerebellar or climbing fibers). Glutamatergic climbing fibers also issue collaterals to the DN. The present study applied five immunohistochemical markers in six types of SCA (1, 2, 3, 6, 7, 17), genetically undefined SCA, FRDA, and FRDA carriers to identify interruptions within the circuitry: calbindin-D28k, neuron-specific enolase, glutamic acid decarboxylase, and vesicular glutamate transporters 1 and 2. Lesions of the cerebellar cortex, DN, and ION were scored according to a guide as 0 (normal), 1 (mild), 2 (moderate), and 3 (severe). Results of each of the five immunohistochemical stains were examined separately for each of the three regions. Combining scores of each anatomical region and each stain yielded a total score as an indicator of pathological severity. Total scores ranged from 16 to 38 in SCA-1 (nine cases); 22 to 39 in SCA-2 (six cases); 9 to 15 in SCA-3 (four cases); and 13 and 25 in SCA-6 (two cases). In single cases of SCA-7 and SCA-17, scores were 16 and 31, respectively. In two genetically undefined SCA, scores were 36 and 37, respectively. In nine cases of FRDA, total scores ranged from 11 to 19. The low scores in SCA-3 and FRDA reflect selective atrophy of the DN. The FRDA carriers did not differ from normal controls. These observations offer a semiquantitative assessment of the critical role of the DN in the ataxic phenotype of SCA and FRDA while other parts of the circuitry appear less important.

Concepts: Neuron, Ataxia, Cerebellum, Glutamate transporter, Glutamic acid, Purkinje cell, Spinocerebellar ataxia, Inferior olivary nucleus