Ahhh…That Exciting Cerebellum!!

As we learn more about the way the brain works and how that functioning relates to movement, we are learning more about the incredible influence of the cerebellum on so many of our daily functions.  Historically the cerebellum has been relegated to the functions of balance and timing of movements.  Today, however, we now know that the cerebellum not only controls these functions but also influences motor skills in the timing in oculomotor control, timing and prediction of the  motor aspects of speech; ataxia of gait, visuo-kinesthetic interactions of limb movements; and prediction and anticipation of motor action.

Even more exciting is the growing body of evidence which supports the role of the cerebellum in cognitive functions. One function that is particularly of interest for occupational and physical therapists working in the area of sensory integration, is the cerebellum’s role in encoding internal models of action which support and influence the development of mental representations in the cerebral cortex.  This is the vital role of sensory integration intervention…to create those internal models.  In addition, these models and cognitive mental representations appear to be vital for the child’s ability to generate ideas for actions and motor planning.

New information is also emerging which supports the role of the cerebellum in sensory acquisition.  Schmahmann postulates a theory he calls “Dysmetria of Thought” which states that the cerebellum is critical for the modulation of sensorimotor, cognitive, and limbic functions through the integration of internal representations with external stimuli and self-generated actions.  Wow!!  What a powerful thought.  In addition to these functions, the cerebellum is also now believed to influence traditionally cortical executive functions such as working memory, mental flexibility, perseveration on task, problem solving, expressive language, verbal fluency, emotional control, attention, and mental representations of visual spatial relationships.  All of which rely on our ability to represent, hold and access information.

Numerous resources are available to therapists on this topic.  I recommend the following for basic introductions.  These can be highly technical resources but are worth the read.  The articles are available as open access via Google Scholar.  Enjoy!!

* Kandel, E., Schwartz, J., Jessell, T., Siegelbaum, S., Hudspeth, A.J. (2012). Principles of Neural Science, Fifth Edition.

* Fatemi, S. H., Aldinger, K. A., Ashwood, P., Bauman, M. L., Blaha, C. D., Blatt, G. J., … & Welsh, J. P. (2012). Consensus paper: pathological role of the cerebellum in autism. The Cerebellum, 11(3), 777-807.

* Manto, M., Bower, J. M., Conforto, A. B., Delgado-García, J. M., da Guarda, S. N. F., Gerwig, M., … & Timmann, D. (2012). Consensus paper: roles of the cerebellum in motor control—the diversity of ideas on cerebellar involvement in movement. The Cerebellum, 11(2), 457-487.

* Koziol, L. F., Budding, D., Andreasen, N., D’Arrigo, S., Bulgheroni, S., Imamizu, H., … & Yamazaki, T. (2013). Consensus Paper: The Cerebellum’s Role in Movement and Cognition. The Cerebellum, 1-27.

* Ito, Masao (2011-08-01). The Cerebellum: Brain for an Implicit Self (FT Press Science).