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Proprioceptive Localization Deficits in People With Cerebellar Damage


It has been hypothesized that an important function of the cerebellum is predicting the state of the body during movement. Yet, the extent of cerebellar involvement in perception of limb state (i.e., proprioception, specifically limb position sense) has yet to be determined. Here, we investigated whether patients with cerebellar damage have deficits when trying to locate their hand in space (i.e., proprioceptive localization), which is highly important for everyday movements. By comparing performance during passive robot-controlled and active self-made multi-joint movements, we were able to determine that some cerebellar patients show improved precision during active movement (i.e., active benefit), comparable to controls, whereas other patients have reduced active benefit. Importantly, the differences in patient performance are not explained by patient diagnosis or clinical ratings of impairment. Furthermore, a subsequent experiment confirmed that active deficits in proprioceptive localization occur during both single-joint and multi-joint movements. As such, it is unlikely that localization deficits can be explained by the multi-joint coordination deficits occurring after cerebellar damage. Our results suggest that cerebellar damage may cause varied impairments to different elements of proprioceptive sense. It follows that proprioceptive localization should be adequately accounted for in clinical testing and rehabilitation of people with cerebellar damage.

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We thank the members of the Center for Movement Studies at the Kennedy Krieger Institute for helping to coordinate experiments and the patients for volunteering their time to participate in these studies. This research was supported by National Institutes of Health grants R01 HD040289 to AJ Bastian, T32 EB003383 to N Thakor, and F31 NS086399 to HM Weeks.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Amy J. Bastian.

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Ethics Statement

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed consent

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Weeks, H.M., Therrien, A.S. & Bastian, A.J. Proprioceptive Localization Deficits in People With Cerebellar Damage. Cerebellum 16, 427–437 (2017).

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  • Proprioception
  • Upper extremity
  • Cerebellum
  • Ataxia