, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 267–273 | Cite as

Episodic ataxia type 2



Episodic ataxia type 2 (EA 2) is a rare neurological disorder of autosomal dominant inheritance resulting from dysfunction of a voltage-gated calcium channel. It manifests with recurrent disabling attacks of imbalance, vertigo, and ataxia, and can be provoked by physical exertion or emotional stress. In the spell-free interval, patients present with central ocular motor dysfunction, mainly downbeat nystagmus. A slow progression of cerebellar signs accompanied by a slight atrophy of midline cerebellar structures is commonly observed during the course of the disease. EA 2 is caused most often by the loss of function mutations of the calcium channel gene CACNA1A, which encodes the Cav2.1 subunit of the P/Q-type calcium channel and is primarily expressed in Purkinje cells. To date, more than 30 mutations have been described. Two effective treatment options have been established for EA 2: acetazolamide (ACTZ), which probably changes the intracellular pH and thereby the transmembraneous potential, and 4-aminopyridine (4-AP), a potassium channel blocker. Approximately 70% of all patients respond to treatment with ACTZ, but the effect is often only transient. In an open trial, 4-AP prevented attacks in five of six patients with EA 2, most likely by increasing the resting activity and excitability of the Purkinje cells. These findings were confirmed by experiments in animal models of EA 2. Many aspects of the pathophysiology (e.g., induction of the attacks) and treatment of EA 2 (e.g., mode of action of ACTZ and 4-AP) still remain unclear and need to be addressed in further animal and clinical studies.

Key Words

Episodic ataxia type 2 downbeat nystagmus PQ-calcium channel acetazolamide aminopyridine 


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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael Strupp
    • 1
  • Andreas Zwergal
    • 1
  • Thomas Brandt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUniversity of MunichMunichGermany

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