Timing functions of the cerebellum

J Cogn Neurosci. 1989 Spring;1(2):136-52. doi: 10.1162/jocn.1989.1.2.136.


This study investigated the effects of different types of neurological deficits on timing functions. The performance of Parkinson, cerebellar, cortical, and peripheral neuropathy patients was compared to age-matched control subjects on two separate measures of timing functions. The first task involved the production of timed intervals in which the subjects attempted to maintain a simple rhythm. The second task measured the subjects' perceptual ability to discriminate between small differences in the duration of two intervals. The primacy of the cerebellum in timing functions was demonstrated by the finding that these were the only patients who showed a deficit in both the production and perception of timing tasks. The cerebellar group was found to have increased variability in performing rhythmic tapping and they were less accurate than the other groups in making perceptual discriminations regarding small differences in duration. Critically, this perceptual deficit appears to be specific to the perception of time since the cerebellar patients were unaffected in a control task measuring the perception of loudness. It is argued that the operation of a timing mechanism can be conceptualized as an isolable component of the motor control system. Furthermore, the results suggest that the domain of the cerebellar timing process is not limited to the motor system, but is employed by other perceptual and cognitive systems when temporally predictive computations are needed.