Climbing fibers and ataxia

The research team of Dineke Verbeek (Department of Genetics of the UMCG, Groningen) has recently published an article that gives a new insight in the cause of genetically different types of ataxia. The group noted that a particular type of nerve fibers in the cerebellum shows a deviation in several types of ataxia.

The deviation is noted in climbing fibers. Climbing fibers carry information to the cerebellum. In the cerebellum the climbing fibers form synapses with the Purkinje cells and in those cells the information is processed.

Information enters the cerebellum via climbing fibers (blue arrow); the climbing fiber makes connections with the Purkinje cells (red tree); Info leaves the cerebellum via the nerve fibers of the Purkinje cell (red arrow)

Climbing fibers play an important role in cerebellar functioning. All nerve cells – including climbing fibers – in the cerebellum communicate via a well-organized network. Changes in this network could be the result of abnormal development of climbing fibers or caused by reduced functioning of these cells. In different SCA types including SCA1, SCA5, and SCA23 identical climbing fiber changes have been identified.

This observation suggests that a shared disease mechanism exists underlying these SCA types. However, future research is necessary to confirm whether all SCA types show similar climbing fiber alterations and whether this finding could be useful as a therapeutic target.


Smeets, C. J. L. M., & Verbeek, D. S. (2016). Climbing fibers in spinocerebellar ataxia: A mechanism for the loss of motor control. Neurobiology of Disease, 88, 96–106.

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