Patients with Cerebellar Ataxia Do Not Benefit from Limb Weights


Patients with cerebellar ataxia are sometimes treated by the addition of mass to the limbs, though this practice has received limited study. Recent work suggests that adding mass to the limbs might have predictable effects on the pattern of cerebellar dysmetria (i.e., over or undershooting) that depends on a hypothesized mismatch between the actual limb inertia and the brain’s estimate of limb inertia. Based on this model, we predicted that addition of mass would only be effective in reducing dysmetria in hypometric patients. Cerebellar patients were challenged with making a single-joint, single degree of freedom reaching movement while various limb masses were tested. In this task, some single-jointed reaches were improved by adding masses that were optimized in a patient-specific manner. However, this improvement did not translate to multi-joint movements. In multi-joint movements, the “best” patient-specific masses (as determined in a single-joint task) generally exacerbated subjects’ reaching errors. This finding raises questions as to the merits of adding limb weights as a therapy to mitigate the effects of dysmetria.

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Correspondence to Amy J. Bastian.

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All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Zimmet, A.M., Cowan, N.J. & Bastian, A.J. Patients with Cerebellar Ataxia Do Not Benefit from Limb Weights. Cerebellum 18, 128–136 (2019).

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  • Cerebellar Ataxia
  • Humans
  • Physical therapy modalities
  • Robotics