Disruption of Cerebellar Prediction in Verbal Working Memory

Front Hum Neurosci. 2019 Feb 21;13:61. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2019.00061. eCollection 2019.


Mounting evidence suggests that the right cerebellum contributes to verbal working memory, but the functional role of this contribution remains unclear. In an established theory of motor control, the cerebellum is thought to predict sensory consequences of movements through an internal "forward model." Here, we hypothesize a similar predictive process can generalize to cerebellar non-motor function, and that the right cerebellum plays a predictive role that is beneficial for rapidly engaging the phonological loop in verbal working memory. To test this hypothesis, double-pulse transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was administered over either the right cerebellum or right occipital lobe (control site), on half the trials, to interrupt the rehearsal of a 6-letter sequence. We found that cerebellar stimulation resulted in greater errors in participants' report of the letter in the current position. Additional analyses revealed that immediately after cerebellar TMS, participants were more likely to use out of date information to predict the next letter in the sequence. This pattern of errors is consistent with TMS causing a temporary disruption of state estimation and cerebellar forward model function, leading to prediction errors in the phonological loop.

Keywords: TMS; cerebellum; forward models; prediction; verbal working memory.