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Ataxia vs. Apraxia

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  • 0:03 Ataxia vs Apraxia Background
  • 0:36 Definition of Ataxia
  • 2:24 Definition of Apraxia
  • 4:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov
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.

Ataxia vs. Apraxia Background

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.

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