The North American Multiple System Atrophy Study Group involves investigators in 12 US medical centers funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. The objectives are to examine the environmental and genetic risk factors for MSA; elucidate pathogenic mechanisms underlying the disorder; and refine evaluations used for assessment. During its first year, the group enrolled 87 patients, implemented four cores, and initiated four scientific projects. Most patients among the 87 had parkinsonian features, which frequently began asymmetrically and remained asymmetrical; one-third responded to levodopa and many developed levodopa complications; almost two-thirds of the patients had cerebellar dysfunction, of these 90% had ataxia; urinary incontinence occurred commonly, and sleep disorders affected most. The investigators studied the effects of oxidative and nitrative stress upon the formation of alpha-synuclein inclusions; generated transgenic models of alpha-synuclein accumulation that recapitulate several behavioral and neuropathological features of MSA; and compared the severity of the autonomic features of MSA, Parkinson’s disease and dementia with Lewy bodies.