The cerebellum and sensorimotor coupling: looking at the problem from the perspective of vestibular reflexes

Cerebellum. 2007;6(1):24-37. doi: 10.1080/14734220601132135.


Cerebellar modules process afferent information and deliver outputs relevant for both reflex and voluntary movements. The response of cerebellar modules to a given input depends on the whole array of signals impinging on them. Studies on vestibular reflexes indicate that the response of the cerebellar circuits to the vestibular input is modified by the integration of multiple visual, vestibular and somatosensory afferent signals. In this way the cerebellum slowly adapts these reflexes when they are not adequate to the behavioural condition and allows their fast modifications when the relative position of the body segments and that of the body in space are changed. Studies on voluntary movements indicate that the cerebellum is responsible for motor learning that consists of the development of new input-output associations. Several theoretical, anatomical and clinical studies are consistent with the hypothesis that the cerebellum allows the delivery of motor commands which vary according to the condition of the motor apparatus. Finally, the cerebellum could change the relation between visual information and aimed reaching movements according to the position of the eyes in the orbit and of the neck over the body. We propose that, due to the large expansion of its cortex, an important function of the cerebellum could be that of expanding the range of sensorimotor associations according to all the factors characterizing the behavioural condition. Indeed, following cerebellar lesion, learning is often lost, the movement results impaired and requires an increased attention. In the light of the recently discovered connections of the cerebellum with the rostral regions of the frontal lobe, it can be suggested that the ability of cerebellar circuits to modify the rules of input-output coupling according to a general context is a fundamental property allowing the cerebellum to control not only motor but also cognitive functions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / cytology
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Reflex, Vestibulo-Ocular / physiology*