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Ataxia Program

We are leading the country in understanding the mechanisms causing hereditary ataxia and developing novel therapies for this disorder. Progressive Cerebellar Ataxia is a relatively rare clinical syndrome for which curative therapies are often not available.

Some types of ataxias are inherited, with the most common forms resulting from specific gene defects that generate neurotoxic proteins. The University of the Michigan Medical School is widely recognized as a national leader in both ataxia care and research.

Mechanistic Research

Investigators in the Ataxia Research Program study the underlying disease mechanisms of different inherited ataxias with a goal of developing treatment strategies for what are now largely untreatable disorders.

Three clinician-researchers within our department form the core of ataxia research enterprise. Henry Paulson, MD, PhD studies spinocerebellar ataxia type three and the toxic proteins that are produced in this condition. Peter Todd, MD, PhD studies how nucleotide repeat expansions in ataxia genes cause neurotoxicity and cerebellar dysfunction. Sharan Srinivasan MD PhD, studies how exercise alters the brain to improve ataxia and coordination in hereditary ataxias.

Several non-clinician research investigators in the department also conduct studies aimed at better understanding and correcting the genetic causes of Spinocerebellar Ataxia. Hayley McLoughlin, PhD is a new tenure track faculty who is leading the charge in development of antisense oligonucleotide therapies for Spinocerebellar Ataxias. Maria do Carmo Costa, PhD is developing small molecule therapeutics for Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3 in preclinical models.

Clinical Studies and Consortia

Michigan participates in several clinical studies and consortia related to cerebellar ataxia, including clinical trials of new medications and drugs. Amy Ferng, MD, who serves as the co-director of the Ataxia Clinic, is the lead on clinical trail work and interfaces with the National Ataxia Foundation and related organizations.

Genetic Research

Margit Burmeister, PhD in the department of Human Genetics, collaborates with Drs. Todd, Paulson, and Ferng using the latest approaches to identify novel disease-causing ataxia genes. Other investigators at the University of Michigan are dedicated to understanding gait disorders and speech disturbance, both of which are closely linked to ataxia.

Our Team
labcoat Maria do Carmo M C Pereira da Costa
Research Assistant Professor
Amy Ferng, MD Amy D Ferng, MD
Clinical Assistant Professor
Hayley McLoughlin Hayley McLoughlin, PhD
Assistant Professor, Neurology
Assistant Professor of Human Genetics
Henry Paulson Henry L Paulson
Lucile Groff Chair of Neurology for Alzheimers Disease
Research Professor
Michigan Neuroscience Institute
Professor of Neurology
Co-Division Chief Cognitive Disorders
profile-peter-todd-2014 Peter K Todd, MD, PhD
Chester and Anne Alecks Sackett Endowed Professor
Professor of Neurology
Associate Chair for Research, Department of Neurology
Medical Director, Neurology
Professor of Human Genetics
SRINIVASAN_Sharan4x5.jpg Sharan Srinivasan
Assistant Professor of Neurology