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Recessive ataxias (spinocerebellar ataxias, recessive or SCARs) are a heterogeneous group of rare, mostly neurodegenerative genetic disorders which usually start in childhood or early adult life. They can be subdivided into two major groups: predominant sensory or afferent ataxias, which are disorders mainly of the peripheral input to the cerebellum, and predominant cerebellar ataxias, in which the cerebellum is primarily affected. Next-generation sequencing technology has enabled the identification of >100 novel SCAR genes in the last 5 years, although most of them are ultrarare. To guide clinical workup and management in SCARs, we provide an up-to-date overview of the most frequent SCARs and their phenotypic features. These include Friedreich ataxia, spastic paraplegia type 7-related ataxia, autosomal-recessive spastic ataxia of Charlevoix-Saguenay (ARSACS) and spectrin repeat-containing nuclear envelope protein (SYNE)-related ataxia. In some restricted populations ARSACS or ataxia with vitamin E deficiency (AVED) is most common. All require a high index of suspicion in patients who present with an early-onset disorder of balance, especially children, in whom normal development and the lack of typical clinical characteristics seen in later stages of the respective SCARs can confuse the clinical picture. We summarize the diagnostic features which can help guide diagnosis, the natural history for common SCARs, and the approach to therapy, both in current use and in ongoing clinical trials. We also provide a summary table for other clinically relevant SCARs. Based on the frequency data, phenotypes, and the cost-effectiveness of recent next-generation sequencing approaches, we conclude with a diagnostic algorithm for the workup of patients with unexplained SCAR.

Original publication




Journal article


Handb Clin Neurol

Publication Date





73 - 89


Friedreich ataxia, SCAR, SYNE1, ataxia with oculomotor apraxia, autosomal-recessive spastic ataxia Charlevoix–Saguenay, early-onset ataxia, genetics, next-generation sequencing, whole-exome sequencing, Ataxia, Cytoskeletal Proteins, Genes, Recessive, Heredodegenerative Disorders, Nervous System, Humans, Molecular Diagnostic Techniques, Mutation, Nerve Tissue Proteins, Neuroimaging, Nuclear Proteins, Spinocerebellar Ataxias, Vitamin E Deficiency