To examine the cerebellar contribution to human spatial navigation we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and virtual reality. Our findings show that the sensory-motor requirements of navigation induce activity in cerebellar lobules and cortical areas known to be involved in the motor loop and vestibular processing. By contrast, cognitive aspects of navigation mainly induce activity in a different cerebellar lobule (VIIA Crus I). Our results demonstrate a functional link between cerebellum and hippocampus in humans and identify specific functional circuits linking lobule VIIA Crus I of the cerebellum to medial parietal, medial prefrontal, and hippocampal cortices in nonmotor aspects of navigation. They further suggest that Crus I belongs to 2 nonmotor loops, involved in different strategies: place-based navigation is supported by coherent activity between left cerebellar lobule VIIA Crus I and medial parietal cortex along with right hippocampus activity, while sequence-based navigation is supported by coherent activity between right lobule VIIA Crus I, medial prefrontal cortex, and left hippocampus. These results highlight the prominent role of the human cerebellum in both motor and cognitive aspects of navigation, and specify the cortico-cerebellar circuits by which it acts depending on the requirements of the task.
Keywords: fMRI; functional connectivity; sequence learning; spatial memory; virtual reality.
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