the cerebellum it is much more than a sort of little brother to the neoscort, a wedge half hidden between the occipital lobe and the brainstem. In fact, this curious, flattened, wool-like structure is one of the most important parts of the brain.
In addition, it is considered that in most cases the proper functioning of the cerebellum is essential for our survival and cases where this rule is not respected become a topical issue.
Although this is a seemingly inconspicuous structure to be hidden in part by the cerebral cortex, the cerebellum is one of the areas of the brain with the highest density of neurons. In fact, about half of brain neurons are found in this structure. But … why is it so important that the cerebellum is in good condition? What processes is he in charge of?
Functions of the cerebellum
It’s been years it is linked to the functioning of the cerebellum and the coordination of muscle activation. Thus, it was considered that the task of the cerebellum was essentially to allow us to maintain balance, to be able to coordinate simple and complex movements and, in general, for the muscles of our body to respond faithfully and efficiently to commands. . that the brain emits.
For example, one of the main symptoms of changes in the cerebellum was considered to be loss of balance after drinking too much alcohol. However, in recent years it has been discovered that the idea that the role of the cerebellum has to do with motor coordination is too simplistic. like that, the cerebellum is not only involved in motor processes, but also plays an important role in many other functions.
The cerebellum in the regulation of emotions
One of the connecting pathways of the cerebellum connects this structure to large areas of the limbic system, which is related to the appearance and maintenance over time of emotional states that stain our experiences. Being in communication with structures such as the amygdala, cerebellum it has the capacity to intervene in the regulation of the emotional states which appear.
So, for example, some of the functions of the cerebellum have to do with creating associations between sensations and feelings, which serves as a support for future learning by relating certain experiences to specific feelings.
The cerebellum and cognitive processes
The fact that the cerebellum has such a density of neurons and is connected to large areas of the cerebral cortex makes the idea that it has something to do with cognitive processes such as memory or attention management is not overdone. There is currently research in this direction.
For example, we saw this size of the cerebellum could be related to the level of intelligence that we have. In addition, from studies that observe the effects of a lesion of the cerebellum on the mental capacities of patients, it has been possible to link the dysfunction of this structure to deficits in attention and use of language.
The most complicated thing to study is that from these studies based on cases of cerebellar damage, it is not possible to know whether the decrease in cognitive abilities is due to the fact that the neurons involved have died (being located in the area of the injury) or if these effects are due to an imbalance in brain function caused by the wound. Therefore, There is still a lot to do whether the role of the cerebellum in cognitive functions is as important as these studies seem to suggest.
The cerebellum and motor coordination
Old ideas about the role of the cerebellum as a coordinating center for muscle activation have not been refuted. Today, this structure is still considered to play a major role in coordinating movement, maintaining balance, and monitoring neural signals to activate muscles.
Since the cerebellum is connected to many areas of the brain, it intersects the motor information processed in the upper regions of the brain with the more “concrete” and operational motor information aimed at activating muscle fibers, and checks that there is no no inconsistencies between the two. Outraged, there is a debate generated around the possibility that one of the functions of the cerebellum is motor learningIn other words, the ability to polish a pattern of movements so that it is more and more perfected.
Structure of the cerebellum
The cerebellum may be relatively small, but its composition is very complex. Although we can talk at length about the different parts and subdivisions of the parts of the cerebellum, this time we will only focus on the broader categorization of the structures of the cerebellum, that is, the parts that can be seen at plain sight with ease. (as long as you have a brain in front, of course).
The hemispheres of the cerebellum
The cerebellum resembles the rest of the brain in that it is also covered with a layer of cells that create a rough surface full of folds. Although, of course, in the case of the cerebellum, these folds are even narrower and thinner, as can be seen with the naked eye. that’s why one of the structures or subregions of the cerebellum is known as the cerebellar cortex.
The cerebellar cortex divides into two cerebellar hemispheres, in the same way that the cerebral cortex divides into a right hemisphere and a left hemisphere. In the middle of these hemispheres is a region called vermis, Which is a vertical strip that connects the two parts and connects them to each other.
The lobes of the cerebellum
Beyond this classification of parts of the cerebellar cortex, there are several lobes of the cerebellum, in the same way that each hemisphere of the cerebral cortex divides into lobes of the brain. These lobes are the anterior lobe, posterior lobe, and flocculonodular lobe, arranged from top to bottom.