The cerebellar-hypothalamic circuits: potential pathways underlying cerebellar involvement in somatic-visceral integration

Brain Res Rev. 2006 Aug 30;52(1):93-106. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2006.01.003. Epub 2006 Feb 21.


The cerebellum has been considered only as a classical subcortical center for motor control. However, accumulating experimental and clinical evidences have revealed that the cerebellum also plays an important role in cognition, for instance, in learning and memory, as well as in emotional behavior and in nonsomatic activities, such as visceral and immunological responses. Although it is not yet clear through which pathways such cerebellar nonsomatic functions are mediated, the direct bidirectional connections between the cerebellum and the hypothalamus, a high autonomic center, have recently been demonstrated in a series of neuroanatomical investigations on a variety of mammals and indicated to be potential pathways underlying the cerebellar autonomic modulation. The direct hypothalamocerebellar projections originate from the widespread hypothalamic nuclei/areas and terminate in both the cerebellar cortex as multilayered fibers and the cerebellar nuclei. Immunohistochemistry studies have offered fairly convincing evidence that some of these projecting fibers are histaminergic. It has been suggested that through their excitatory effects on cerebellar cortical and nuclear cells mediated by metabotropic histamine H(2) and/or H(1) receptors, the hypothalamocerebellar histaminergic fibers participate in cerebellar modulation of somatic motor as well as non-motor responses. On the other hand, the direct cerebellohypothalamic projections arise from all cerebellar nuclei (fastigial, anterior and posterior interpositus, and dentate nuclei) and reach almost all hypothalamic nuclei/areas. Neurophysiological and neuroimaging studies have demonstrated that these connections may be involved in feeding, cardiovascular, osmotic, respiratory, micturition, immune, emotion, and other nonsomatic regulation. These observations provide support for the hypothesis that the cerebellum is an essential modulator and coordinator for integrating motor, visceral and behavioral responses, and that such somatic-visceral integration through the cerebellar circuitry may be fulfilled by means of the cerebellar-hypothalamic circuits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamus / anatomy & histology
  • Hypothalamus / physiology*
  • Immunity / physiology
  • Learning
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Visceral Afferents / physiology*