Can EEG and MEG detect signals from the human cerebellum?

Neuroimage. 2020 Jul 15:215:116817. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2020.116817. Epub 2020 Apr 8.


The cerebellum plays a key role in the regulation of motor learning, coordination and timing, and has been implicated in sensory and cognitive processes as well. However, our current knowledge of its electrophysiological mechanisms comes primarily from direct recordings in animals, as investigations into cerebellar function in humans have instead predominantly relied on lesion, haemodynamic and metabolic imaging studies. While the latter provide fundamental insights into the contribution of the cerebellum to various cerebellar-cortical pathways mediating behaviour, they remain limited in terms of temporal and spectral resolution. In principle, this shortcoming could be overcome by monitoring the cerebellum's electrophysiological signals. Non-invasive assessment of cerebellar electrophysiology in humans, however, is hampered by the limited spatial resolution of electroencephalography (EEG) and magnetoencephalography (MEG) in subcortical structures, i.e., deep sources. Furthermore, it has been argued that the anatomical configuration of the cerebellum leads to signal cancellation in MEG and EEG. Yet, claims that MEG and EEG are unable to detect cerebellar activity have been challenged by an increasing number of studies over the last decade. Here we address this controversy and survey reports in which electrophysiological signals were successfully recorded from the human cerebellum. We argue that the detection of cerebellum activity non-invasively with MEG and EEG is indeed possible and can be enhanced with appropriate methods, in particular using connectivity analysis in source space. We provide illustrative examples of cerebellar activity detected with MEG and EEG. Furthermore, we propose practical guidelines to optimize the detection of cerebellar activity with MEG and EEG. Finally, we discuss MEG and EEG signal contamination that may lead to localizing spurious sources in the cerebellum and suggest ways of handling such artefacts. This review is to be read as a perspective review that highlights that it is indeed possible to measure cerebellum with MEG and EEG and encourages MEG and EEG researchers to do so. Its added value beyond highlighting and encouraging is that it offers useful advice for researchers aspiring to investigate the cerebellum with MEG and EEG.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Auditory Perception / physiology*
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Electroencephalography / methods*
  • Electroencephalography / standards
  • Humans
  • Magnetoencephalography / methods*
  • Magnetoencephalography / standards
  • Patient Positioning / methods
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*