The cerebellum and pain: passive integrator or active participator?

Brain Res Rev. 2010 Oct 5;65(1):14-27. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2010.05.005. Epub 2010 May 27.


The cerebellum is classically considered to be a brain region involved in motor processing, but it has also been implicated in non-motor, and even cognitive, functions. Though previous research suggests that the cerebellum responds to noxious stimuli, its specific role during pain is unclear. Pain is a multidimensional experience that encompasses sensory discriminative, affective motivational, and cognitive evaluative components. Cerebellar involvement during the processing of pain could thus potentially reflect a number of different functional processes. This review will summarize the animal and human research to date that indicates that (1) primary afferents conduct nociceptive (noxious) input to the cerebellum, (2) electrical and pharmacological stimulation of the cerebellum can modulate nociceptive processing, and (3) cerebellar activity occurs during the presence of acute and chronic pain. Possible functional roles for the cerebellum relating to pain will be considered, including perspectives relating to emotion, cognition, and motor control in response to pain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticipation, Psychological
  • Behavior / physiology
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiopathology
  • Emotions / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiopathology
  • Neurons, Afferent / physiology
  • Nociceptors / physiology
  • Pain / complications
  • Pain / physiopathology*
  • Pain / psychology
  • Pain Perception / physiology