Slow saccades are often found in degenerative ataxia. Experimental studies have shown that horizontal saccades are generated in the paramedian pontine reticular formation and that lesions in this area produce slow saccades. Based on these findings, saccade slowing should be a frequent feature of olivopontocerebellar atrophy, a type of cerebellar degeneration with prominent involvement of the pons. To test this hypothesis, saccade velocity was measured in 31 patients with autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia (ADCA) and 17 patients with idiopathic cerebellar ataxia (IDCA). Saccade velocity was reduced in most patients with ADCA whereas it was normal in IDCA although olivopontocerebellar atrophy occurred in both groups. Saccade velocities correlated with pontine size in ADCA but not in IDCA. The data disprove the hypothesis that saccadic slowing is a clinical hallmark of olivopontocerebellar atrophy. Instead, only patients with ADCA and morphological features of olivopontocerebellar atrophy have slow saccades.
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