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Acta Med Port. 2006 May-Jun;19(3):257-67. Epub 2006 Sep 7.

[Role of the cerebellum in cognitive and behavioural control: scientific basis and investigation models].

[Article in Portuguese]

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  • 1Serviço de Neurologia, H. Egas Moniz, Departamento de Psiquiatria e Saúde Mental, Faculdade de Ciências Médicas, Lisboa, Portugal.


Although classically considered to be involved only in motor coordination, the cerebellum has more recently been implicated also in cognitive control. Anatomical studies have shown the cerebellum to be linked to pre-frontal, occipito-parietal and temporal cortical associative areas, as well as to the limbic system, in a closed loop circuit. Functional studies revealed activation of the cerebellum during performance on cognitive tasks not related to movement. Pathological, morphological and functional imaging studies have shown the cerebellum to be one of the cerebral structures affected in some of the cognitive and behavioural developmental disorders, like Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder, Autism and Schizophrenia. Neuropsychological studies in patients with degenerative cerebellar ataxia also showed cognitive dysfunction, mainly of the executive type. Investigation performed with child and adult patients with focal lesions of the cerebellum has helped to better discriminate the cognitive role of specific areas on the cerebellum, revealing a characteristic constellation of cognitive deficits, affecting executive, visual-spatial, linguistic and behavioural functions. However, much remains to be explained on the precise nature of cerebellar contributions to cognition, in part because of the difficulty in finding adequate investigation models. Studies performed on primates have contributed to better delineate the connections between the cerebellum and cortical cognitive domains, but is always uncertain to transfer this kind of data to the human brain. Functional imaging studies although useful to investigate directly in the human model and in real time, are not yet able to completely isolate cerebellar cognitive and behavioural functions. Degenerative and developmental disorders are not the most adequate model for studying cerebellar influence on higher mental functions, as they affect other regions besides the cerebellum. Young patients with isolated cerebellar stroke provide a useful clinical model for investigating cerebellar cognitive functions, because they permit to isolate in space and time the specific contribution of the cerebellum to the cognitive deficits.

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