Current perspectives on the cerebellum and reading development

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2018 Sep;92:55-66. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2018.05.006. Epub 2018 May 3.


The dominant neural models of typical and atypical reading focus on the cerebral cortex. However, Nicolson et al. (2001) proposed a model, the cerebellar deficit hypothesis, in which the cerebellum plays an important role in reading. To evaluate the evidence in support of this model, we qualitatively review the current literature and employ meta-analytic tools examining patterns of functional connectivity between the cerebellum and the cerebral reading network. We find evidence for a phonological circuit with connectivity between the cerebellum and a dorsal fronto-parietal pathway, and a semantic circuit with cerebellar connectivity to a ventral fronto-temporal pathway. Furthermore, both cerebral pathways have functional connections with the mid-fusiform gyrus, a region implicated in orthographic processing. Consideration of these circuits within the context of the current literature suggests the cerebellum is positioned to influence both phonological and word-based decoding procedures for recognizing unfamiliar printed words. Overall, multiple lines of research provide support for the cerebellar deficit hypothesis, while also highlighting the need for further research to test mechanistic hypotheses.

Keywords: Cerebellar deficit hypothesis; Decoding; Network; Phonological; Reading development; Semantic.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Reading
  • Recognition, Psychology / physiology*
  • Verbal Learning