Background: Genetic pediatric ataxias are heterogeneous rare disorders, mainly inherited as autosomal-recessive traits. Most forms are progressive and lack effective treatment, with relevant socioeconomical impact. Albeit ataxia represents the main clinical feature, the phenotype can be more complex, with additional neurological and nonneurological signs being described in several forms.
Methods and Results: In this review, we provide an overview of the occurrence and spectrum of movement disorders in the most relevant forms of childhood-onset genetic ataxias. All types of hypokinetic and hyperkinetic movement disorders of variable severity have been reported. Movement disorders occasionally represent the symptom of onset, predating ataxia even of a few years and therefore challenging an early diagnosis. Their pathogenesis still remains poorly defined, as it is not yet clear whether movement disorders may directly relate to the cerebellar pathology or result from an extracerebellar dysfunction, including the basal ganglia.
Conclusion: Recognition of the complete movement disorder phenotype in genetic pediatric ataxias has important implications for diagnosis, management, and genetic counseling.