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Ataxia with oculomotor apraxia type 2 (AOA2) is one of the most frequent autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxias. Oculomotor apraxia refers to horizontal gaze failure due to deficits in voluntary/reactive eye movements. These deficits can manifest as increased latency and/or hypometria of saccades with a staircase pattern and are frequently associated with compensatory head thrust movements. Oculomotor disturbances associated with AOA2 have been poorly studied mainly because the diagnosis of oculomotor apraxia was based on the presence of compensatory head thrusts. The aim of this study was to characterise the nature of horizontal gaze failure in patients with AOA2 and to demonstrate oculomotor apraxia even in the absence of head thrusts. Five patients with AOA2, without head thrusts, were tested in saccadic tasks with the head restrained or free to move and their performance was compared to a group of six healthy participants. The most salient deficit of the patients was saccadic hypometria with a typical staircase pattern. Saccade latency in the patients was longer than controls only for memory-guided saccades. In the head-free condition, head movements were delayed relative to the eye and their amplitude and velocity were strongly reduced compared to controls. Our study emphasises that in AOA2, hypometric saccades with a staircase pattern are a more reliable sign of oculomotor apraxia than head thrust movements. In addition, the variety of eye and head movements' deficits suggests that, although the main neural degeneration in AOA2 affects the cerebellum, this disease affects other structures.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





557 - 567


Adult, Eye Movements, Female, Head Movements, Humans, Male, Photic Stimulation, Psychomotor Performance, Reaction Time, Saccades, Spinocerebellar Ataxias, Spinocerebellar Degenerations, Young Adult