An autopsied case of progressive supranuclear palsy presenting with cerebellar ataxia and severe cerebellar involvement


Correspondence: Yasushi Iwasaki, MD, Department of Neuropathology, Institute for Medical Science of Aging, Aichi Medical University, 1-1 Yazakokarimata, Nagakute 480-1195, Japan. Email:


A Japanese male patient presented with gait disturbance at the age of 69 years. His principal symptom was cerebellar ataxia for several years. He was initially diagnosed as having olivopontocerebellar atrophy because dysarthria and ataxia gradually developed, and head CT scan showed apparent atrophy of the cerebellum and brainstem and dilatation of the fourth ventricle. Later, he showed vertical gaze palsy, dysphagia, retrocollis, parkinsonism, axial dominant rigidity and grasp reflex, and therefore, the diagnosis was modified to progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). Progressive atrophy of the frontotemporal lobe, cerebellum and brainstem, and dilatation of the lateral, third and fourth ventricles were evident on MRI. Gastrostomy and tracheotomy were performed 9 and 10 years after onset, respectively, and the patient died after 11 years disease duration. At autopsy the brain weighed 1000 g and showed atrophy of the frontotemporal lobe, cerebellum and brainstem. Neurofibrillary tangles, mainly globose-type revealed by Gallyas-Braak silver staining, were extensively observed in the cerebral cortex and subcortical grey matter. Numerous glial fibrillary tangles, including tuft-shaped astrocytes and coiled bodies, and extensive argyrophilic threads were also recognized, particularly in the frontal lobe, basal ganglia, cerebellar white matter, brainstem and spinal cord. The Purkinje cell layer showed severe neuron loss with Bergmann's gliosis, and the dentate nucleus showed severe neuron loss with grumose degeneration. Tau-positive/Gallyas-positive inclusions in the Purkinje cells and the glial cells of the Purkinje cell layer were observed. Pathological findings of the present patient were consistent with the diagnosis of PSP, but the olivopontocerebellar involvement, particularly in the cerebellum, was generally more severe, and the quantity of tau-positive/Gallyas-positive structures were more abundant than in typical PSP cases. The existence of a distinct, rare PSP subtype with severe olivopontocerebellar involvement, “PSP-C“, which tends to be clinically misdiagnosed as spinocerebellar degeneration in the early disease stage, is noteworthy. The present case corresponded to this rare subtype of PSP.