Saturday, July 18, 2009

The cerebellum is an organ of the central nervous system. It is situated just below the posterior part of the cerebrum. The cerebellum plays a key role in coordination and motor control. There are many neural pathways linking the cerebellum with the cerebral motor cortex, that sends information to the muscles causing them to move and the spinocerebellar tract, providing feedback on the position of the body in space.

Lesions in the cerebellum result in disorders in fine movement, equilibrium, posture, and motor learning. Since the 18th century, physiologists have indicated that patients with cerebellar damage show problems with motor coordination and movement. Research into cerebellar function during the early to mid 19th century was done via lesion and ablation studies in animals. Research physiologists noted that such lesions led to animals with strange movements, awkward gait, and muscular weakness. These observations and studies led to the conclusion that the cerebellum was a motor control structure. Nevertheless, modern research shows that the cerebellum has a broader role in a number of key cognitive functions, including attention and the processing of language, music, and other sensory temporal stimuli.

The human cerebellum changes with age. These changes may be different from those of other parts of the brain, e.g., the gene expression pattern in the human cerebellum shows less age-related alteration than in the human cerebral cortex.A stereological study has found that human cerebellar white matter is reduced by 26% with age.