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Welcome to 2 minute neuroscience, where I simplistically explain neuroscience topics
in 2 minutes or less.
In this installment I will discuss the cerebellum.
Cerebellum is Latin for “little brain,” and the cerebellum does look like miniature
version of the brain as it protrudes from under the posterior and inferior region of
the cerebral cortex.
Although the cerebellum has many functions, it is primarily associated with movement.
Specifically, it seems to be involved with facilitating movement by detecting errors
that occur in the course of a movement and correcting them, so the movement appears fluid
and achieves its intended goal.
The cerebellum is also involved with motor learning to reduce the likelihood errors in
movement will occur again in the future.
The cerebellum consists of two cerebellar hemispheres and can be divided into 3 parts.
The cerebrocerebellum receives input from the cerebral cortex and is involved with planning
and initiating movements.
The spinocerebellum receives information about limb position and touch and pressure sensations
from the spinal cord.
The spinocerebellum uses this information, for example, to compare where a limb is in
space with where it should be if the movement were going as planned.
If there is a discrepancy, the spinocerebellum can modify motor signals to correct any errors
in the movement.
The vermis is the area of the spinocerebellum that runs along the midline of the cerebellum;
it is involved with posture, limb movement, and eye movements.
The vestibulocerebellum, also called the flocculonodular lobe, is important to maintaining equilibrium,
balance, and posture.
The cerebellum communicates with the rest of the nervous system through three large
pathways called the cerebellar peduncles, which include the superior, middle and inferior
cerebellar peduncles.
When information is sent to the cerebellum, it takes an indirect path to reach extensively
branched cells called Purkinje cells.
These cells then project to a group of nuclei in the center of the cerebellum called the
deep cerebellar nuclei.
The deep cerebellar nuclei send the information to various areas in the brainstem and thalamus
that then can influence motor areas of the cortex or descending motor tracts to modify
movements.