There are two scary conditions that affect a person’s movements. These conditions may cause them to fall, be unable to speak, or slur their speech. They are ataxia and apraxia. Learn what they are and how they are different in this lesson.
Imagine getting up one day and trying to perform an activity. As you try to perform this activity, you notice that your movements are really uncoordinated. You get up out of bed but you stumble about like a drunk and fall. Now picture another day. This time you wake up and notice that even though you are willing and able to do something, like lick your lips, you can’t do it at all.
Both are scary scenarios and they have to do with ataxia and apraxia. In this lesson, we’ll take a look at both of these conditions and how they’re different.
Definition of Ataxia
Ataxia is a neurological condition that results in uncoordinated movements and balance dysfunction, not as a result of muscle weakness. It comes from the original Greek word translated as a-, meaning without, and -taxis, implying the proper movement of an organism. It’s commonly, but not always, the result of some sort of damage to the part of your brain that controls coordinated movement, called the cerebellum.In ataxia, a person’s movements are disturbed not only in coordination but also in appropriate muscle tension and force.
Ataxia can affect the motion of the limbs, the movement of the eyes, and structures involved in swallowing and speech.So let’s say one day you get up out of that bed and try to walk to the bathroom. Depending on your particular case, you may have different signs of ataxia.
Generally speaking, ataxia will cause an unsteady and uneven gate. You’ll have trouble turning and you will have a wide-based stance to your walk. All of this may cause you to fall to one side. On your feet, you’ll feel like you’re drunk, even though you clearly aren’t.
When you speak, you’ll speak in an uncoordinated fashion, such that others won’t understand what you’re talking about. You’ll complain that you have double vision and that you have trouble swallowing. If you try to button your shirt for work, put a spoon to your mouth while eating breakfast, or write a morning love note to your partner, you’ll have serious trouble doing so as a result of ataxia.Remember, in ataxia, the major problem with all of this is an inability of the body to coordinate muscular movement. So if you see someone having trouble walking, complaining of double vision, slurring their words, and being unable to write or eat properly, don’t jump to the conclusion that they are simply unwell. They may be unfortunate victims of ataxia instead.
Definition of Apraxia
Apraxia comes from the Greek a-, again meaning without, and -praxis, which implies some sort of action.
Apraxia is caused by some sort of damage to the brain’s two hemispheres, called the cerebral hemispheres. These hemispheres make up the main portion of the brain, called the cerebrum. This damage disables the brain’s ability to send signals that would allow the person to perform an activity in a correct manner.
Apraxia is the inability of someone to perform voluntary movement even when they can. For example, assuming they aren’t paralyzed or have a sensory deficit (like blindness), the person can’t perform a purposeful movement even though they understand what to do, know how to do it, want to do it, and have the physical ability to do so.Let’s say that you wake up with apraxia instead of ataxia. Depending on which form of apraxia you wake up with, you can have lots of different problems. You may have problems performing motions related to the face, like licking your lips, whistling, winking, or coughing. In another form, you may not be able to make precise movements with your limbs. If someone shows you how to wave, you won’t be able to wave back as you try to mimic them.
If someone draws something for you on a piece of paper, you won’t be able to copy it or even draw a simple original figure of your own. Other types of apraxia will result in difficulty dressing, bathing, or eating. Some other forms will make it difficult for you to speak or even move your eyes.If we can generalize the difference between ataxia and apraxia, it would go something like this. Apraxia results in a person’s inability to carry out a familiar purposeful movement, while in ataxia they can carry out the movement with little coordination. Remember, this is a generalization and is not applicable to all forms of ataxia versus the different forms of apraxia.
Ataxia commonly stems from damage to the cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for coordinating movement. Thus, ataxia results in uncoordinated movement, like a drunken walk, slurred speech, problems eating with a utensil, and so forth.Apraxia stems from a damaged cerebral hemisphere, one of two halves of the main part of the brain. In apraxia, a person may want to and have the ability to perform a task, like licking their lips, but they will be unable to do so.Medical Disclaimer: The information on this site is for your information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.