What is ataxia?

Ataxia is a brain disease of the cerebellum (along with its connections with other parts of the brain and spinal cord). Ataxia is the broad description of a perplexing, sometimes fatal, condition that robs it victims of their ability to coordinate movement, the critical work of the cerebellum. Walking, talking, holding objects, eye contact, even swallowing become monumental and, eventually, insurmountable tasks. Cerebellar disease does not produce ataxia by making muscles weak, but rather by destroying muscle coordination and by making it difficult, and eventually impossible, to move any part of the body accurately. Ataxia affects at least 150,000 Americans, three times the number of individuals affected by Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).