The Cerebellum and Cognition: Evidence from Functional Imaging Studies
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Evidence for a role of the human cerebellum in cognitive functions comes from anatomical, clinical and neuroimaging data. Functional neuroimaging reveals cerebellar activation during a variety of cognitive tasks, including language, visual–spatial, executive, and working memory processes. It is important to note that overt movement is not a prerequisite for cerebellar activation: the cerebellum is engaged during conditions which either control for motor output or do not involve motor responses. Resting-state functional connectivity data reveal that, in addition to networks underlying motor control, the cerebellum is part of “cognitive” networks with prefrontal and parietal association cortices. Consistent with these findings, regional differences in activation patterns within the cerebellum are evident depending on the task demands, suggesting that the cerebellum can be broadly divided into functional regions based on the patterns of anatomical connectivity between different regions of the cerebellum and sensorimotor and association areas of the cerebral cortex. However, the distinct contribution of the cerebellum to cognitive tasks is not clear. Here, the functional neuroimaging evidence for cerebellar involvement in cognitive functions is reviewed and related to hypotheses as to why the cerebellum is active during such tasks. Identifying the precise role of the cerebellum in cognition—as well as the mechanism by which the cerebellum modulates performance during a wide range of tasks—remains a challenge for future investigations.