Episodic ataxia type 1: Clinical characterization, quality of life and genotype-phenotype correlation

Tracey D. Graves, Yoon Hee Cha, Angelika F. Hahn, Richard Barohn, Mohammed K. Salajegheh, Robert C. Griggs, Brian N. Bundy, Joanna C. Jen, Robert W. Baloh, Michael G. Hanna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Episodic ataxia type 1 is considered a rare neuronal ion channel disorder characterized by brief attacks of unsteadiness and dizziness with persistent myokymia. To characterize the natural history, develop outcome measures for future clinical trials, and correlate genotype with phenotype, we undertook an international, prospective, cross-sectional study. Thirty-nine individuals (51% male) were enrolled: median age 37 years (range 15-65 years). We identified 10 different pathogenic point mutations in KCNA1 that accounted for the genetic basis of 85% of the cohort. Participants with KCNA1 mutations were more likely to have a positive family history. Analysis of the total cohort showed that the first episode of ataxia occurred before age 20 in all but one patient, with an average age of onset of 7.9 years. Physical exertion, emotional stress and environmental temperature were the most common triggers for attacks. Attack frequency ranged from daily to monthly, even with the same KCNA1 genotype. Average attack duration was in the order of minutes. Ten participants (26%) developed permanent cerebellar signs, which were related to disease duration. The average Scale for the Assessment and Rating of Ataxia score (SARA, a standardized measure of cerebellar dysfunction on clinical examination, scores range from 0-40) was an average of 3.15 for all participants (range 0-14), but was only 2 in those with isolated episodic ataxia compared with 7.7 in those with progressive cerebellar ataxia in addition to episodic ataxia. Thirty-seven participants completed the SF-36, a quality of life survey; all eight domain norm-based average scores (mean = 50) were below normal with mental health being the lowest (41.3) in those with mutation positive episodic ataxia type 1. Scores on SF-36 correlated negatively with attack frequency. Of the 39 participants in the study, 33 harboured mutations in KCNA1 whereas the remaining six had no mutation identified. Episodic ataxia type 1 phenocopies have not been described previously and we report their clinical features, which appear to be different to those with a KCNA1 mutation. This large prospective study of both genetically confirmed episodic ataxia type 1 and episodic ataxia type 1 phenocopies provides detailed baseline characteristics of these disorders and their impact on participants. We found that attacks had a significant effect on quality of life. Unlike previous studies, we found that a significant number of individuals with genetically confirmed episodic ataxia type 1 (21%) had accumulated persistent cerebellar symptoms and signs. These data will enable the development of outcome measures for clinical trials of treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1009-1018
Number of pages10
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study/the CINCH group was supported by the National Institutes of Health [grant number 2U54NS059065]. This work was also supported by the University of Kansas Medical Center [CTSA Grant UL1TR000001 NCATS/NIH] and University of Rochester [CTSA Grant UL1 RR 024160 NCRR/NIH]. Research in the MRC Centre in London is supported by an MRC Centre grant [MRC Centre for Neuromuscular Diseases Centre, code G0601943] and by the UCLH NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.


  • KCNA1
  • episodic ataxia type 1 (EA1)
  • quality of life


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