The Fitts task reveals impairments in planning and online control of movement in Friedreich ataxia: reduced cerebellar-cortico connectivity? Academic Article uri icon


  • Friedreich ataxia (FRDA) is the most common of the inherited ataxias. We have suggested that people with FRDA may have impairment in cognitive and/or psychomotor capacity either due to disturbance of projections of the cerebellum to the cortex, direct cortical pathology or perhaps both. To further explore this possibility, we used a movement task incorporating Fitts' Law, a robust description of the relationship between movement time and accuracy in goal-directed aiming movements. By manipulating task difficulty, according to target size and distance, we were able to quantify processes related to motor planning in 10 individuals with FRDA and 10 matched control participants. Compared to control participants, people with FRDA were significantly disadvantaged in terms of movement time to targets with an increasing index of difficulty. Successful completion of this task requires both preplanning of movement and online error detection and correction. The cerebellum and its connections to the frontal cortex via cerebro-ponto-cerebello-thalamo-cerebral loops are fundamental to both processes. These results lend further support to our contention that in FRDA these loops are impaired, reflecting a failure to access prefrontal/anterior regions necessary for effective management of preplanning of movement and online error correction.


  • Corben, LA
  • Georgiou-Karistianis, N
  • Bradshaw, JL
  • Hocking, DR
  • Churchyard, AJ
  • Delatycki, MB

publication date

  • September 2011