Usually when we talk about the brain and / or brain we usually mean the area known as the cerebral cortex, the part most visible from the outside. However, we rarely tend to think of a structure located down and back between the brainstem and the occipital lobe, resembling a second brain of smaller dimensions. We are talking about the cerebellum.
This area is essential for our survival, so injuries or alterations involve the presence of serious complications at different levels, both motor, emotional and cognitive. That is why, in this article, we are going to do a brief review of different changes and diseases of the cerebellum and how they can affect us.
The cerebellum: this little stranger
The cerebellum is a woolly bud-like structure located at the back of the brain, specifically behind the brainstem and below the occipital lobe, as I mentioned earlier.
Despite its size, it is a complex structure, which practically resembles a second brain: it has its own crust with two hemispheres joined by a structure called vermis, bundles of white matter, nuclei and cerebellar peduncles. It has both excitatory and inhibitory neurons.
Although apparently less named than other cortical or subcortical structures, the cerebellum is of great importance in different aspects of human life, participating in different cognitive and language functions, emotionality, return information received through movement and fine motor skills. In fact, this structure it contains more than half of the brain’s neurons.
The cerebellum has also been shown to be related to heart rate and heart rate. However, it was traditionally considered to possess only motor-related functions, and it is only more recently that its relevance in other fields has started to be verified.
So we are ahead a structure with many functionsThus, damage to the cerebellum can have serious repercussions on a person’s life.
Although the type and location of the lesions in particular determine to a greater or lesser extent the symptoms that will manifest themselves, in general we can say that a disease of the cerebellum or the presence of different lesions in it they can cause the following symptoms.
Ataxia is lack or absence of stability, coordination and maintenance of posture and movement. In the case of damage to the cerebellum is one of the most recognizable symptoms. Damage in this region would cause imbalances and uncontrolled and imprecise movements.
2. Other motor alterations
The presence of uncontrolled tremors, impaired walking maintenance, or muscular dystrophy can be caused by injury or disease of the cerebellum.
3. Memory alterations
Memory, in particular procedural memory, is linked, among other things, to the cerebellum and the basal ganglia. Destruction of part or all of the cerebellum causes serious difficulties in this type of learning.
4. Speech disorders
It is common for changes in the cerebellum to cause various forms of abnormalities in communication and speech expression. One of the most common is dysarthria.
5. Cognitive impairment
Several studies show that brain activity has some degree of relation to the level of intelligence manifested. In this sense, a damaged cerebellum could contribute to decrease the intellectual capacities of those affected.
6. Alterations in perception
Different diseases of the cerebellum can cause perception disorders, especially in areas related to vision and hearing.
7. Participation in various mental disorders
Alteration or damage to the cerebellum or its functioning can contribute to the generation or maintenance of various types of mental disorders, such as autism, anxiety, ADHD, schizophrenia or mental disorders of the mind (the latter in particular related to vermis).
Main diseases of the cerebellum
There are different types of disorders and diseases that can affect this structure of the nervous system. Some of the different diseases of the cerebellum that we can find are as follows.
1. Friedreich’s ataxia
This disease is one of the most well-known types of ataxia due to genetic causes. The most obvious symptoms are the presence of stiffness, lack of eye coordination, instability and imbalance, dysarthria and various bone problems. Vision and hearing problems, tremors, and metabolic disorders such as diabetes can also occur. It’s a neurodegenerative disease.
The presence of a tumor inside the skull poses a serious risk to the patient, even if it is a benign cyst because the pressure exerted against the skull destroys the neurons in the system. In the case of the cerebellum, we can find tumors of different types, as well as a link between the injuries they can cause to the cerebellum and the presence of cognitive impairment.
3. Von Hippel-Lindau disease
This disease of the cerebellum is caused by a mutation in a gene on chromosome 3, Which does not appear or is faulty. Its best known effect is to cause different tumors in different areas of the body, including the cerebellum.
4. Cerebellar syndrome
Disease characterized by the presence of ataxia, hypotonia, changes in gait, motor slowdown, tremors during actions and / or causing nystagmus
5. Joubert syndrome
It is a disease of the cerebellum of genetic origin in which the vermis that connects the two hemispheres of the cerebellum is deformed or it simply does not exist, so communication between hemispheres cannot be carried out properly. The patient usually has symptoms similar to those of autism. It usually causes developmental delay, intellectual disability, ecopraxia, hypotonia, and ataxia, among other symptoms.
Brain inflammation for various reasons, whether viral or bacterial (It can be caused, for example, by tuberculosis) or produced by an infection of the cerebellum or nearby structures.
7. Dandy-Walker syndrome
This disease of the cerebellum causes part of the cerebellar worm to either not exist or is deformed, in addition to having an enlarged fourth internal ventricle and producing cysts inside the skull. It usually causes muscular dystrophy, visual disturbances, spasticity and seizures.
The presence of blows and blows can cause neuronal death largely from the cerebellum. Symptoms depend on the location and degree of involvement of the area in question.
9. Injuries and trauma
Although it is not a disease of the cerebellum, the presence of injuries from different traumas can cause serious damage to this area of the brain. They often cause the engine to slow down and that any injuries and skills take longer than usual to heal.
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Joyal, CC, Meyer, C., Jacquart, G., Mahler, P., Caston, J., and Lalonde, R. (1996). Effects of median and lateral cerebellar lesions on motor coordination and spatial orientation. Brain Research, 739 (1-2), 1-11.