The Cerebellum

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 266–286 | Cite as

Consensus paper: Decoding the Contributions of the Cerebellum as a Time Machine. From Neurons to Clinical Applications

  • Martin BarešEmail author
  • Richard Apps
  • Laura Avanzino
  • Assaf Breska
  • Egidio D’Angelo
  • Pavel Filip
  • Marcus Gerwig
  • Richard B. Ivry
  • Charlotte L. Lawrenson
  • Elan D. Louis
  • Nicholas A. Lusk
  • Mario Manto
  • Warren H. Meck
  • Hiroshi Mitoma
  • Elijah A. Petter
Consensus paper


Time perception is an essential element of conscious and subconscious experience, coordinating our perception and interaction with the surrounding environment. In recent years, major technological advances in the field of neuroscience have helped foster new insights into the processing of temporal information, including extending our knowledge of the role of the cerebellum as one of the key nodes in the brain for this function. This consensus paper provides a state-of-the-art picture from the experts in the field of the cerebellar research on a variety of crucial issues related to temporal processing, drawing on recent anatomical, neurophysiological, behavioral, and clinical research.

The cerebellar granular layer appears especially well-suited for timing operations required to confer millisecond precision for cerebellar computations. This may be most evident in the manner the cerebellum controls the duration of the timing of agonist-antagonist EMG bursts associated with fast goal-directed voluntary movements. In concert with adaptive processes, interactions within the cerebellar cortex are sufficient to support sub-second timing. However, supra-second timing seems to require cortical and basal ganglia networks, perhaps operating in concert with cerebellum. Additionally, sensory information such as an unexpected stimulus can be forwarded to the cerebellum via the climbing fiber system, providing a temporally constrained mechanism to adjust ongoing behavior and modify future processing. Patients with cerebellar disorders exhibit impairments on a range of tasks that require precise timing, and recent evidence suggest that timing problems observed in other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, and dystonia may reflect disrupted interactions between the basal ganglia and cerebellum.

The complex concepts emerging from this consensus paper should provide a foundation for further discussion, helping identify basic research questions required to understand how the brain represents and utilizes time, as well as delineating ways in which this knowledge can help improve the lives of those with neurological conditions that disrupt this most elemental sense. The panel of experts agrees that timing control in the brain is a complex concept in whom cerebellar circuitry is deeply involved. The concept of a timing machine has now expanded to clinical disorders.


Cerebellum Timing Consensus Temporal processing Movement Climbing fiber 



This work was supported by a grant from the EU H2020 Marie Skłodowska RISE project #691110 (MICROBRADAM); National Institute of Health (NS092079); European Union grant Human Brain Project (HBP-604102).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

There are no potential conflicts of interests regarding this paper and no financial or personal relationships that might bias this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin Bareš
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Richard Apps
    • 3
  • Laura Avanzino
    • 4
    • 5
  • Assaf Breska
    • 6
  • Egidio D’Angelo
    • 7
    • 8
  • Pavel Filip
    • 1
  • Marcus Gerwig
    • 9
  • Richard B. Ivry
    • 6
  • Charlotte L. Lawrenson
    • 3
  • Elan D. Louis
    • 10
    • 11
  • Nicholas A. Lusk
    • 12
  • Mario Manto
    • 13
  • Warren H. Meck
    • 12
  • Hiroshi Mitoma
    • 14
  • Elijah A. Petter
    • 12
  1. 1.First Department of Neurology, St. Anne’s University Hospital and Faculty of MedicineMasaryk UniversityBrnoCzech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Neurology, School of MedicineUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.School of Physiology, Pharmacology and NeuroscienceUniversity of BristolBristolUK
  4. 4.Department of Experimental Medicine, Section of Human Physiology and Centro Polifunzionale di Scienze MotorieUniversity of GenoaGenoaItaly
  5. 5.Centre for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement DisordersOspedale Policlinico San MartinoGenoaItaly
  6. 6.Department of Psychology and Helen Wills Neuroscience InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaBerkeleyUSA
  7. 7.Neurophysiology Unit, Department of Brain and Behavioral SciencesUniversity of PaviaPaviaItaly
  8. 8.Brain Connectivity CenterFondazione Istituto Neurologico Nazionale Casimiro Mondino (IRCCS)PaviaItaly
  9. 9.Department of NeurologyUniversity of Duisburg-EssenDuisburgGermany
  10. 10.Department of Neurology, Yale School of MedicineYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  11. 11.Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology, Yale School of Public HealthYale UniversityNew HavenUSA
  12. 12.Department of Psychology and NeuroscienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  13. 13.Department of Neurology, CHU-Charleroi, Charleroi, Belgium -Service des NeurosciencesUMonsMonsBelgium
  14. 14.Medical Education Promotion CenterTokyo Medical UniversityTokyoJapan

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