Cerebellum and emotional behavior

Neuroscience. 2009 Sep 1;162(3):756-62. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2009.01.064. Epub 2009 Feb 3.


Fear conditioning involves learning that a previously neutral stimulus (CS) predicts an aversive unconditioned stimulus (US). Lesions of the cerebellar vermis may affect fear memory without altering baseline motor/autonomic responses to the frightening stimuli. Reversible inactivation of the vermis during the consolidation period impairs retention of fear memory. In patients with medial cerebellar lesions conditioned bradycardia is impaired. In humans, cerebellar areas around the vermis are activated during mental recall of emotional personal episodes, if a loved partner receives a pain stimulus, and during learning of a CS-US association. Moreover, patients with cerebellar stroke may fail to show overt emotional changes. In such patients, however, the activity of several areas, including ventromedial prefrontal cortex, anterior cingulate, pulvinar and insular cortex, is significantly increased relative to healthy subjects when exposed to frightening stimuli. Therefore, other structures may serve to maintain fear response after cerebellar damage. These data indicate that the vermis is involved in the formation of fear memory traces. We suggest that the vermis is not only involved in regulating the autonomic/motor responses, but that it also participates in forming new CS-US associations thus eliciting appropriate responses to new stimuli or situations. In other words, the cerebellum may translate an emotional state elaborated elsewhere into autonomic and motor responses.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior / physiology*
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Memory / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology