Non-invasive cerebellar stimulation--a consensus paper

Cerebellum. 2014 Feb;13(1):121-38. doi: 10.1007/s12311-013-0514-7.


The field of neurostimulation of the cerebellum either with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS; single pulse or repetitive (rTMS)) or transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS; anodal or cathodal) is gaining popularity in the scientific community, in particular because these stimulation techniques are non-invasive and provide novel information on cerebellar functions. There is a consensus amongst the panel of experts that both TMS and tDCS can effectively influence cerebellar functions, not only in the motor domain, with effects on visually guided tracking tasks, motor surround inhibition, motor adaptation and learning, but also for the cognitive and affective operations handled by the cerebro-cerebellar circuits. Verbal working memory, semantic associations and predictive language processing are amongst these operations. Both TMS and tDCS modulate the connectivity between the cerebellum and the primary motor cortex, tuning cerebellar excitability. Cerebellar TMS is an effective and valuable method to evaluate the cerebello-thalamo-cortical loop functions and for the study of the pathophysiology of ataxia. In most circumstances, DCS induces a polarity-dependent site-specific modulation of cerebellar activity. Paired associative stimulation of the cerebello-dentato-thalamo-M1 pathway can induce bidirectional long-term spike-timing-dependent plasticity-like changes of corticospinal excitability. However, the panel of experts considers that several important issues still remain unresolved and require further research. In particular, the role of TMS in promoting cerebellar plasticity is not established. Moreover, the exact positioning of electrode stimulation and the duration of the after effects of tDCS remain unclear. Future studies are required to better define how DCS over particular regions of the cerebellum affects individual cerebellar symptoms, given the topographical organization of cerebellar symptoms. The long-term neural consequences of non-invasive cerebellar modulation are also unclear. Although there is an agreement that the clinical applications in cerebellar disorders are likely numerous, it is emphasized that rigorous large-scale clinical trials are missing. Further studies should be encouraged to better clarify the role of using non-invasive neurostimulation techniques over the cerebellum in motor, cognitive and psychiatric rehabilitation strategies.

Publication types

  • Consensus Development Conference

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / physiopathology
  • Cerebellar Ataxia / therapy
  • Cerebellum / physiopathology*
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy* / methods
  • Humans
  • Mental Processes / physiology
  • Motor Cortex / physiopathology
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation* / methods