The aim of the present study was to compare the severity of cerebellar ataxia as measured by the International Cooperative Ataxia Rating Scale (ICARS) by Trouillas et al. [ J Neurol Sci 1997;145:205–211] with the cerebellar volume in chronic cerebellar disease. Fifteen patients with pure cerebellar degeneration were investigated. Seven patients suffered from spinocerebellar ataxia type 6, 5 from idiopathic late-onset cerebellar ataxia, 2 from autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxia type III and 1 from episodic ataxia type 2. Volumetric analysis was based on individual three-dimensional MR images. Total ICARS score significantly inversely correlated with the cerebellar volume (r = –0.805, p < 0.0001), correlations between ICARS subscores and cerebellar volume were significant for upper and lower limb ataxia, ataxia of posture and gait, and dysarthria, but not for the oculomotor subscore. The results suggest that the degree of cerebellar atrophy in pure cerebellar degenerative disorders is accompanied by comparable functional impairment (i.e. degree of cerebellar ataxia).