Solving the mystery of the human cerebellum

Neuropsychol Rev. 2010 Sep;20(3):229-35. doi: 10.1007/s11065-010-9140-z. Epub 2010 Sep 1.


The mystery of the human cerebellum is this: Why did it enlarge so dramatically in the last million years of human evolution, concomitantly with the greater enlargement of the cerebral cortex? A solution to this mystery was proposed in the 20th century as a result of research by several groups of scientists who investigated the contributions of the cerebellum to the cerebral cortex. In contrast to the 19th century investigations, which were focused on the motor functions of the cerebellum, the focus of the subsequent investigations was expanded to include some mental functions because evidence was produced that the cerebellum contributes to cognition. It was proposed that the combination in the cerebellum of motor and mental capabilities enables the cerebellum to confer on humans some adaptive advantages of great value, and this ability would explain why the human cerebellum has continued to enlarge so dramatically. A valuable adaptive advantage that is included in the proposal is the possibility that the cerebellum couples the motor function of articulating speech to the mental function that selects the language to be spoken, thus helping to produce fluent human speech and language. The validity of this proposal about linguistic processing has not yet been verified. Therefore the mystery of cerebellar enlargement in humans is not yet solved and requires further research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebellar Diseases / pathology
  • Cerebellar Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cerebellar Diseases / therapy
  • Cerebellum / anatomy & histology
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests