Social cerebellum in goal-directed navigation

Soc Neurosci. 2021 Oct;16(5):467-485. doi: 10.1080/17470919.2021.1970017. Epub 2021 Aug 30.


The posterior cerebellum is responsible for the understanding and learning of sequences of actions by others, which are a prerequisite for social understanding. This study investigates this cerebellar function while navigating toward a goal in a social context. Participants undertook a novel social navigation task requiring them to memorize and subsequently reproduce a protagonist's trajectory through a grid toward a desirable goal. As a nonsocial control condition, a ball underwent the same trajectory by passively rolling through the grid toward the same endpoint. To establish that memorizing and reproducing a trajectory is a critical cerebellar function, two non-sequencing control conditions were created, which involved the observation only of the trajectory by the protagonist or ball. Our results showed that the posterior cerebellar Crus II was involved in memorizing both social and nonsocial trajectories, along with the parahippocampal gyrus and other cortical areas involved in social cognition. As hypothesized, cerebellar Crus I was more active when memorizing social as opposed to nonsocial trajectories. Moreover, cerebellar Crus I and II, and lobule VI, were activated when reproducing both social and nonsocial trajectories. These findings highlight the involvement of the posterior cerebellar Crus in supporting human goal-directed social navigation.

Keywords: Social navigating; goal-directed behavior; mentalizing; posterior cerebellum; social sequence learning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Mapping*
  • Cerebellum
  • Goals*
  • Humans
  • Learning
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Social Cognition