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Cerebellum: Dark side of the moon

December 9, 2009


If hippocampus is my love, cerebellum is my mistress. This has been my cliche since the last years of my PhD,  for almost 10 years. Again, just to explain how excited I am about cerebellum research, I come up with this anecdote. I am not a big fan of fyling (by plane I mean, as all the humans ever lived, I can not fly by myself.) When there is a tirbulance on the plane, I say “Oh, I must not die yet, I have not done research on cerebellum!”

       Why does cerebellum make me so excited? Cerebellum means “little brain” in Latin. Human cerebellum weighs 150 gr. which is 10% of the human brain. Our hippocampus important for short-term memory and emotional regulation only weighs 3-4 gr. Cerebellum is the biggest part of the brain. In spite of its big size, it has been a mystery over the centuries. Therefore I like calling the cerebellum “magic box or mysterious box”. When you take an average textbook; for medical students, for high school students; the first sentences you will see under the “Function of the cerebellum” subtitle would be how cerebellum is important in coordination, precision, and accurate timig of the movement. In other words, if you ask 10 people what comes to their mind when they hear the word cerebellum, 11 of them would say “balance.” The mystery under the brain (where cerebellum is located) is that cerebellum has functions not related to movements.  Following the advance in medical technology, particularly imaging (see functional MRI entry blog for an example) we have more evidence on that issue. The exciting part is we have a lot to learn about cerebellum’s role in psychiatric diseases.

Neuroscientists showed that cerebellum has a role in the mechanisms of psychiatric diseases such as in schizophrenia, attention deficit hyper-activity disorder, autism, and bipolar disorder.  Here is an article  from 2008 written as a review article by a Brasilian group titled as “Cerebellum with psychiatric disorders.” Another delicious article (that is how I call the papers I can not even read of enthusiasm) titled as “The Role of the Cerebellum in Schizophrenia: an Update of Clinical, Cognitive, and Functional Evidences” by a French group. Finally, here is an article on bipolar disorder and cerebellum where my dear friend ,who is also Turkish, Serap Monkul is the first author titled as “MRI Study of the Cerebellum in Young Bipolar Patients.” Serap also has spent time on doing structural MRI research in patients with mood disorders.

What is the deal with cerebellum having a part in psychiatry? Cerebellum has been suggested to take roles both in cognition, intellect, and emotions. It might be the fact that it can be not only the organ functioning for the balance of our movements, but also our psychological balance, as cerebellum is important in regulation of emotions.

  Suggested reading: “The role of the cerebellum in cognition and behavior: A selective review” from Helen Mayberg’s group (see famous brain researchers blog entry for information on Helen Mayberg).

          Finally, the title of the entry  is the title of  the last seminar I gave as a PhD candidate at Department of Anatomy eight years ago. It is also the title of one of my articles published in a Turkish journal; Journal of Neurological Sciences in 2002. Unfortunately, the link is broken for this paper, and the abstract was in English only,the journal now accepts articles in English, though.

Here is some more on cerebellum: The Treasure at the Bottom of the Brain






4 Comments leave one →
  1. dvora24 permalink
    December 11, 2009 3:04 pm

    I loved your story about flying on an airplane & your thoughts when turbulance happens. I don’t mean to laugh at you, but I laughed outloud at this statement you wrote!

  2. December 11, 2009 5:03 pm

    Well, you can laugh at me Devorah, better than you cry for me, no? 🙂


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