The cerebellum and emotional experience

Neuropsychologia. 2007 Mar 25;45(6):1331-41. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.09.023. Epub 2006 Nov 22.


While the role of the cerebellum in motor coordination is widely accepted, the notion that it is involved in emotion has only recently gained popularity. To date, functional neuroimaging has not been used in combination with lesion studies to elucidate the role of the cerebellum in the processing of emotional material. We examined six participants with cerebellar stroke and nine age and education matched healthy volunteers. In addition to a complete neuropsychological, neurologic, and psychiatric examination, participants underwent [15O]water positron emission tomography (PET) while responding to emotion-evoking visual stimuli. Cerebellar lesions were associated with reduced pleasant experience in response to happiness-evoking stimuli. Stroke patients reported an unpleasant experience to frightening stimuli similar to healthy controls, yet showed significantly lower activity in the right ventral lateral and left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, amygdala, thalamus, and retrosplenial cingulate gyrus. Frightening stimuli led to increased activity in the ventral medial prefrontal, anterior cingulate, pulvinar, and insular cortex. This suggests that alternate neural circuitry became responsible for maintaining the evolutionarily critical fear response after cerebellar damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cerebellar Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebellar Diseases / etiology
  • Cerebellar Diseases / psychology
  • Cerebellum / diagnostic imaging
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Cerebral Infarction / complications
  • Cerebral Infarction / psychology
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Social Perception