The cerebellum has a function we didn’t even know about, new research reveals: ScienceAlert

Given the complexity of the human body, it’s no surprise that we’re still making new discoveries about the different parts we’re made up of – and scientists have just made a new discovery about the cerebellum at the back of the brain.

Already known to be important for the proper control of our movements, it now appears that this area of ​​the brain also has a key role to play when it comes to remembering positive and negative emotional experiences.

These kinds of emotional experiences are particularly well remembered by the brain, mainly because it helps the survival of our species to be able to remember the times when we were in danger and the times when we were prosperous.

The amygdala and hippocampus are the areas of the brain thought to be most responsible for consolidating these emotional memories, but as the cerebellum is already linked to fear conditioning, the researchers behind the latest study wanted to see if it played a role role in recording emotional memories a lot.

“The aim of the present study was to investigate whether the cerebellum and cerebellum-cerebellum connections are involved in the phenomenon of superior episodic memory for emotionally arousing visual information,” the researchers write in their published paper.

Through brain scans of 1,418 people taken via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans as they viewed emotional – some positive, some negative – and neutral images, the team was able to establish that the cerebellum was indeed involved.

Study participants remembered positive and negative images much better than neutral ones, and this enhanced storage ability was linked to periods when the cerebellum was more active.

In addition, the researchers also observed a greater level of communication between the cerebellum and the cerebrum, the largest part of the brain. The cerebellum received information from the anterior cingulate cortex (an area key to the perception and evaluation of emotions). it also carried information to the amygdala and hippocampus.

The cerebellum (red activation) connects to different brain regions (green activations) to enhance the storage of emotional information. (MCN/University of Basel)

“These results show that the cerebellum is an integral part of a network responsible for the enhanced storage of emotional information,” says neuroscientist Dominique de Quervain from the University of Basel in Switzerland.

As with any new findings about the neural circuitry inside our heads, these findings could help show us how to repair that circuitry when something goes wrong—when memories aren’t stored properly, or if they’re imprinted too clearly on the brain. minds.

When, for example, painful or frightening experiences are too easily brought to mind, this can lead to mental health problems. Rather than acting in our favor, it actually has a negative impact, and that’s something new research could ultimately be helpful with.

“These findings expand knowledge about the role of the cerebellum in complex cognitive and emotional processes and may be relevant to understanding psychiatric disorders with abnormal emotional circuits, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or autism spectrum disorder,” the researchers write. .

The research has been published in PNAS.

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