The Cerebellum

, Volume 18, Issue 1, pp 128–136 | Cite as

Patients with Cerebellar Ataxia Do Not Benefit from Limb Weights

  • Amanda M. Zimmet
  • Noah J. Cowan
  • Amy J. BastianEmail author
Original Paper


Patients with cerebellar ataxia are sometimes treated by the addition of mass to the limbs, though this practice has received limited study. Recent work suggests that adding mass to the limbs might have predictable effects on the pattern of cerebellar dysmetria (i.e., over or undershooting) that depends on a hypothesized mismatch between the actual limb inertia and the brain’s estimate of limb inertia. Based on this model, we predicted that addition of mass would only be effective in reducing dysmetria in hypometric patients. Cerebellar patients were challenged with making a single-joint, single degree of freedom reaching movement while various limb masses were tested. In this task, some single-jointed reaches were improved by adding masses that were optimized in a patient-specific manner. However, this improvement did not translate to multi-joint movements. In multi-joint movements, the “best” patient-specific masses (as determined in a single-joint task) generally exacerbated subjects’ reaching errors. This finding raises questions as to the merits of adding limb weights as a therapy to mitigate the effects of dysmetria.


Cerebellar Ataxia Humans Physical therapy modalities Robotics 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures performed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. 1.
    Morgan MH. Ataxia and weights. Physiotherapy. 1975;61(11):332–4.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Manto M, Godaux E, Jacquy J. Cerebellar hypermetria is larger when the inertial load is artificially increased. Ann Neurol. 1994;35(1):45–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Clopton N, Schultz D, Boren C, Porter J, Brillbart T. Effects of axial weight loading on gait for subjects with cerebellar ataxia: preliminary findings. Neurol Rep. 2003;27(1):15–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Bhanpuri NH, Okamura AM, Bastian AJ. Predicting and correcting ataxia using a model of cerebellar function. Brain. 2014;137(7):1931–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Winter DA. Biomechanics and motor control of human movement. Second Edition+. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; 1990. p. 51–74.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Taylor MM, Creelman CD. PEST: efficient estimates on probability functions. J Acoust Soc Am. 1967;41(4):782–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Walpole SC, Prieto-Merino D, Edwards P, Cleland J, Stevens G, Roberts I. The weight of nations: an estimation of adult human biomass. BMC Public Health. 2012;12:439.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amanda M. Zimmet
    • 1
    • 2
  • Noah J. Cowan
    • 3
  • Amy J. Bastian
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Biomedical Engineering, School of MedicineJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Kennedy Krieger InstituteBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Department of Mechanical EngineeringJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Department of Neuroscience, School of MedicineJohns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations