Neuropsychology Review

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 280–289 | Cite as

Contributions of Studies on Alcohol Use Disorders to Understanding Cerebellar Function

  • Natalie M. Zahr
  • Anne-Lise Pitel
  • Sandra Chanraud
  • Edith V. SullivanEmail author


Neuropathological, neuropsychological, and neuroimaging studies of human alcoholism provide evidence for degradation of frontal, pontine, thalamic, and cerebellar brain sites and disturbed associated functions. Current studies using neuroimaging combined with examination of executive functions, traditionally considered the sole purview of the frontal lobes, have identified a role for the cerebellum serving as a compensatory processing adjunct to enable normal performance on challenging tasks tapping executive functions. This overview proposes that disruption of an executive frontocerebellar network is a major contributor to characteristic behaviors of alcoholism that, on the one hand, enable alcohol use disorders, and on the other hand, lead to compensation for dysfunctions in alcoholism traditionally considered frontally-based.


Cerebellum Alcohol Alcoholism Executive function Structural imaging Functional imaging 



We would like to thank our colleague, Adolf Pfefferbaum, M.D. for thoughtful discussion on brain and behavioral sequelae of alcoholism and for production of the imaging figures.

Funding support

This work was funded by grants from the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (AA010723, AA017168, AA017923).


The authors have no conflict of interest to disclose.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Natalie M. Zahr
    • 1
    • 2
  • Anne-Lise Pitel
    • 1
  • Sandra Chanraud
    • 1
    • 2
  • Edith V. Sullivan
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesStanford University School of MedicineStanfordUSA
  2. 2.SRI InternationalMenlo ParkUSA

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