Let me tell you about my friend Heroldand why his story is important to you. Back when I want to be a gospel singer, Harold and I traveled together. He was the best accompanist I ever had. He had these long flexible fingers that peoplecall nimble that could reach and octave and a half.My stubby little fingers struggle at 10ths. He had fast fluid movements. Quitegraceful. And I thought it was magic. Now I would say it's a combination of a good motor cortex, good interconnections, and a good cerebellum.Harold was good at everything,
and taught me to try. He had that quot;What's the worst that could happen?quot; attitude. He could build intricate machines andremember long passages, and was a gifted public speaker. But Harold doesn't do public speaking anymore. He has trouble speaking and swallowing. It's caused from a condition called Cerebellar Atrophy.On our trip, Harold was driver, tour guide and tripplanner. But with cerebellar atrophy, patients like Harold have difficulty making plans, keeping their thoughts in the correctsequence, and have abnormal speech
rhythms. They may put the emphasis on the wrong syllable, and gradually lose their ability speak. Typically starts with an unsteady gaitand impaired muscle coordination. But it spreads to poor posture, trouble swallowing tremors, retina degeneration and peripheral neuropathy. Not everyone has the same symptomsand they vary in intensity. Some have a slow onset, where thecerebellar atrophy might go unnoticed
for years. Everyone adjust to it and it is quot;justsomething he doesquot; or quot;she's always like.quot; Eventually the symptoms become too severe to ignore. Some have a rapid onset such as a stroke, where symptoms are noticed within hoursor days. The problem is that the neurons in Harold's cerebellum are dying. The cerebellum sits under the cerebral cortex. It looks like a pot welded on the back of your head,
one on each side. It's a complex system. It has more neurons than the cerebral cortex but they are tiny and compacted into a small space. The cerebellum plays a major role inmotor coordination. Alcohol impacts the cerebellum beforeany other region of the body, which is why the police have you walk astraight line or touch your finger to your nose. They are testing for cerebellumimpairment.
Obviously many things can go wrong with such an important and widely used structure. Some genetic conditions don't allow thecerebellum to properly mature. Others don't send the signals to thecerebellum from the rest of the body. In addition to these congenitalmalformations and inherited genetic mutations, thecerebellum can be damaged by tumors, traumatic brain injury, stroke ordiseases like multiple sclerosis. It is composed of three parts: One region helps coordinate the eyes,head and neck.