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A pan-European study: Signs of motor disorders can appear years before disease manifestation
Date:5/22/2013

rom 2 to 24 years. These and all other test results remained anonymous: the data was not known to the test subjects, neither could the researchers assign it to specific participants. The same applied to individuals whose DNA turned out to be inconspicuous. "People in families with cases of ataxia usually have not taken a genetic test and they don't want to know any results. This kind of information has to be treated very carefully for ethical reasons," emphasizes Klockgether.

Extensive tests

The study participants made themselves available for various examinations including standardized tests of muscular coordination. These included measuring the time needed by the subjects to walk a specific distance. Another series of experiments involved inserting small pins into the holes of a board and taking them back out as quickly as possible. Yet another test measured how often the participants could repeat a certain sequence of syllables in ten seconds. "The tests were designed in such a way that they would provide significant information but still be easy to perform," says Klockgether. "Tests like these can be performed anywhere without need for special technology."

Technically complex methods were also used: all study participants were tested for the genetic defects relevant to ataxia. At some of the research centers involved in the study, it was also possible to examine the subjects with the aid of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This enabled researchers to measure the total brain volume as well as the dimensions of individual parts of the brain in about a third of the subjects.

Notable findings

In two of the four types of ataxia investigated, the scientists found signs of impending disease. "We found a loss in brain volume, particularly shrinkage in the area of the cerebellum and brain stem. These subjects also had subtle difficulties with coordination," Klockgether summarizes the results. "This means that ma
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Contact: Marcus Neitzert
marcus.neitzert@dzne.de
49-228-433-02271
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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