The Cerebellar Nuclei and Dexterous Limb Movements

Neuroscience. 2020 Dec 1;450:168-183. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2020.06.046. Epub 2020 Jul 9.


Dexterous forelimb movements like reaching, grasping, and manipulating objects are fundamental building blocks of the mammalian motor repertoire. These behaviors are essential to everyday activities, and their elaboration underlies incredible accomplishments by human beings in art and sport. Moreover, the susceptibility of these behaviors to damage and disease of the nervous system can lead to debilitating deficits, highlighting a need for a better understanding of function and dysfunction in sensorimotor control. The cerebellum is central to coordinating limb movements, as defined in large part by Joseph Babinski and Gordon Holmes describing motor impairment in patients with cerebellar lesions over 100 years ago (Babinski, 1902; Holmes, 1917), and supported by many important human and animal studies that have been conducted since. Here, with a focus on output pathways of the cerebellar nuclei across mammalian species, we describe forelimb movement deficits observed when cerebellar circuits are perturbed, the mechanisms through which these circuits influence motor output, and key challenges in defining how the cerebellum refines limb movement.

Keywords: Ataxia; Cerebellar nuclei; Dysmetria; Grasp; Internal copy; Reach.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebellar Nuclei*
  • Cerebellum
  • Forelimb
  • Hand Strength
  • Humans
  • Movement*