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BioMed Research International
Volume 2014, Article ID 583507, 11 pages
Review Article

Motor Training in Degenerative Spinocerebellar Disease: Ataxia-Specific Improvements by Intensive Physiotherapy and Exergames

1Department of Neurodegenerative Diseases, Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen, Hoppe-Seyler-Straße 3, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
2German Research Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE), 72076 Tübingen, Germany
3Department of Cognitive Neurology, Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, 72076 Tübingen, Germany
4Centre for Integrative Neuroscience (CIN), 72076 Tübingen, Germany

Received 22 December 2013; Revised 23 February 2014; Accepted 17 March 2014; Published 27 April 2014

Academic Editor: Nicola A. Maffiuletti

Copyright © 2014 Matthis Synofzik and Winfried Ilg. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The cerebellum is essentially involved in movement control and plays a critical role in motor learning. It has remained controversial whether patients with degenerative cerebellar disease benefit from high-intensity coordinative training. Moreover, it remains unclear by which training methods and mechanisms these patients might improve their motor performance. Here, we review evidence from different high-intensity training studies in patients with degenerative spinocerebellar disease. These studies demonstrate that high-intensity coordinative training might lead to a significant benefit in patients with degenerative ataxia. This training might be based either on physiotherapy or on whole-body controlled videogames (“exergames”). The benefit shown in these studies is equal to regaining one or more years of natural disease progression. In addition, first case studies indicate that even subjects with advanced neurodegeneration might benefit from such training programs. For both types of training, the observed clinical improvements are paralleled by recoveries in ataxia-specific dysfunctions (e.g., multijoint coordination and dynamic stability). Importantly, for both types of training, the retention of the effects seems to depend on the frequency and continuity of training. Based on these studies, we here present preliminary recommendations for clinical practice, and articulate open questions that might guide future studies on neurorehabilitation in degenerative spinocerebellar disease.