Macular morpho‐functional and visual pathways functional assessment in patients with spinocerebellar type 1 ataxia with or without neurological signs

Lucia Ziccardi, Ettore Cioffi, Lucilla Barbano, Valeria Gioiosa, Benedetto Falsini, Carlo Casali, Vincenzo Parisi

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Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1 (SCA‐ATXN1) is an autosomal dominant, neurodegenerative disease, caused by CAG repeat expansion in the ataxin‐1 gene (ATXN1). In isolated reports of patients with neurological signs [symptomatic patients (SP)], macular abnormalities have been described. However, no reports exist about macular anomalies in SCA1 subjects carrying the ATXN1 mutation without neurological signs [not symptomatic carriers (NSC)]. Therefore, the main aim of our work was to evaluate whether the macular functional and morphological abnormalities could be detectable in SP, genetically confirmed and with neurological signs, as well as in SCA‐ ATXN1‐NSC, harboring pathogenic CAG expansion in ATXN1. In addition, we investigated whether the macular involvement could be associated or not to an impairment of RGCs and of their fibers and of the neural conduction along the visual pathways. Herein, nine SCA‐ATXN1 subjects (6 SP and 3 NSC) underwent the following examinations: visual acuity and chromatic test assessments, fundus oculi (FO) examination, macular and peripapillary retinal nerve fiber layer thickness (RNFL‐T) analysis by Spectral domain‐Optical Coherence Tomography (Sd‐OCT) acquisition, multifocal electroretinogram (mfERG), pattern reversal electroretinogram (PERG) and visual evoked potentials (VEP) recordings. In four eyes of two SP, visual acuity reduction and chromatic abnormalities were observed; in three of them FO changes associated with macular thinning and outer retinal defects were also detected. In three NSC eyes, slight FO abnormalities were associated with qualitative macular morphological changes. By contrast, abnormal mfERG responses (exclusively from foveal and parafoveal areas) were detected in all SP and NSC (18 eyes). No abnormalities of PERG values, RNFL‐T, and VEP responses were found, but in one SP, presenting abnormal papillo‐macular bundle neural conduction. Results from our SCA‐ATXN1 cohort suggest that a macular dysfunction, detectable by mfERG recordings, may occur in the overt disorder, and unexpectedly in the stage of the disease in which there is still an absence of neurological signs. In NSC, an exclusive dysfunction of preganglionic macular elements can be observed, and this is associated with both normal RGCs function and neural conduction along the visual pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5271
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number22
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1 2021


  • Macular degeneration
  • Macular function
  • Multifocal electroretinogram
  • Sd‐OCT
  • Spinocerebellar ataxia type 1
  • Visual pathways

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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