Cerebellar Hypoplasia Lingo 101
It’s no wonder why many folks simply call them “wobbly cats.”
The term is certainly a bit more manageable, endearing and less complicated than cerebellar hypoplasia. But like these sweet kittens, the official term shouldn’t be intimidating. Here’s a closer look at what these words mean:
Cerebellar: This is pretty much a no-brainer, well, as they say! Cerebellar is the adjective form of cerebellum, which is the portion of the brain that manages movement and balance.
Hypoplasia: Let’s break this one down. In the medical world, the prefix, hypo, means deficient or less than normal. The suffix, plasia, means development or formation. So when the two are combined, we’re talking about the deficient development of something in the body. The hypoplasia of anything is usually a congenital condition, meaning it’s something you’re born with. However, it’s important to remember that the cerebellum can still be damaged a few weeks after birth.
When cerebellar and hypoplasia are paired, we’re talking about the deficient development of the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls movement and balance. Since the cerebellum isn’t fully developed, neither are these abilities.
Another term that often crosses paths with cerebellar hypoplasia is cerebellar ataxia.
Ataxia is a noun that means the inability to coordinate voluntary muscle movements (sound familiar?), or more specifically that there’s disfunction in the part of the nervous system that coordinates movement.
There are several types of ataxia, so from here on out, let’s clarify that we mean cerebellar ataxia — that the disfunction stems from an issue in the cerebellum, as opposed to another part of the central nervous system.
So, a cat who is born with an underdeveloped cerebellum (CH cats) would have cerebellar ataxia, or to put it another way, exhibit cerebellar ataxic characteristics.
Here’s where it gets a bit more complicated. It sounds like a CH cat may have cerebellar ataxia, but a cat with cerebellar ataxia may not have CH. I think that’s because technically, CH is the deficient development of the cerebellum, whereas cerebellar ataxia could be caused by an injury to the cerebellum. However, from what I’ve read, any injury to the cerebellum may stunt its growth, so either way the two may be somewhat related.
The severity of cerebellar ataxia depends on which parts of the cerebellum are injured or undeveloped. To better understand the types of cerebellar ataxia, we have to take a closer look at the cerebellum. The cerebellum’s functions can be divided into three roles:
- Vestibulocerebellum: Regulates balance and eye moments. If this part of the cerebellum is damaged or under-formed, it can result in balance and walking issues.
- Spinocerebellum: Regulates body and limb movements.
- Cerebrocerebellum: Is involved with planning movement and evaluating sensory information.If any of those parts of the cerebellum are damaged or underdeveloped, the cat will consequently experience a lack of ability in that regard. This is why CH has multiple characteristics including intention tremors(also known as head tremors), hypotonia (low muscle tone), asynergy (the lack of coordination between muscles, limbs or joints) and dysmetria (an inability to judge distance or scale).Whew! And there we go. Hopefully this has been somewhat helpful. And now, class dismissed!