The Cerebellum as an Embodying Machine

Neuroscientist. 2022 Sep 2:10738584221120187. doi: 10.1177/10738584221120187. Online ahead of print.


Whereas emotion theorists often keep their distance from the embodied approach, theorists of embodiment tend to treat emotion as a mainly physiologic process. However, intimate links between emotions and the body suggest that emotions are privileged phenomena to attempt to reintegrate mind and body and that the body helps the mind in shaping emotional responses. To date, research has favored the cerebrum over other parts of the brain as a substrate of embodied emotions. However, given the widely demonstrated contribution of the cerebellum to emotional processing, research in affective neuroscience should consider embodiment theory as a useful approach for evaluating the cerebellar role in emotion and affect. The aim of this review is to insert the cerebellum among the structures needed to embody emotions, providing illustrative examples of cerebellar involvement in embodied emotions (as occurring in empathic abilities) and in impaired identification and expression of embodied emotions (as occurring in alexithymia).

Keywords: affective neuroscience; alexithymia; embodiment; emotions; empathy; internal models.