Cerebellum: What is it? Importance, Functions, Associated Disorders and Recommendations

It is a structure found in the back of the brain, below the occipital and temporal lobes of the cerebral cortex.

Importance

This organ contains more than 50% of the total number of neurons, although it represents approximately 10% of the total volume of the brain.

The cerebellum is one of the most identifiable parts of the brain due to its unique shape and location. It is extremely important to be able to perform voluntary daily tasks such as walking and writing. It is also essential to stay balanced and upright.

The surface of the cerebellum is bent and divided into two hemispheres, although in this case another central protuberance appears, the vermis. The gray matter is on the outside and the white matter on the inside and has the shape of a tree.

Functions of the cerebellum

The cerebellum has been considered a motor structure, because cerebellar damage leads to alterations in motor control and posture and because most of the outputs of the cerebellum are parts of the motor system.

The motor commands do not start in the cerebellum; rather, the cerebellum modifies the motor commands of the descending paths to make the movements more adaptable and accurate.

The main functions associated with the cerebellum are:

Maintenance of balance and posture : The cerebellum is important to make postural adjustments to maintain balance.

This modulates the commands to motor neurons to compensate for changes in body posture or changes in the load on the muscles ., Through their entry of vestibularreceptors  and proprioceptors.

Patients with cerebellar damage suffer from balance disorders, and often develop stereotyped postural strategies to compensate for this problem (eg, a broad-based stance).

Coordination of voluntary movements : Most movements are composed of a series of different muscle groups that act together in a temporally coordinated manner.

A major function of the cerebellum is to coordinate the time and strength of these different muscle groups to produce fluid limbs or body movements.

Motor learning: The cerebellum is important for motor learning. It plays an important role in adapting and adjusting the motor programs to perform precise movements through trial and error (for example, learning to hit a baseball).

Cognitive functions: Although the cerebellum is better understood in terms of its contributions to motor control, it is also involved in certain cognitive functions, such as language.

Therefore, like the basal ganglia, the cerebellum is historically considered part of the motor system, but its functions extend beyond motor control in ways that are still not well understood.

Other functions:  Researchers believe that the cerebellum has some role in thinking, including thoughts related to language and mood. These functions are still not well understood.

Associated disorders

The most common signs of a cerebellar disorder involve an alteration in muscle control. This is because the cerebellum controls balance and voluntary movements.

Symptoms or signs include:

  • Lack of muscle control and coordination.
  • Dificulty to walk.
  • Difficulty speaking.
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Headaches.

There are many disorders of the cerebellum that include strokes, brain hemorrhage , toxins, genetic malformations, infection and cancer.

Some common disorders of the cerebellum are:

Ataxia:

Ataxia is a loss of coordination and muscle control caused by a problem with the cerebellum .

An underlying problem such as a virus or a brain tumor can cause the symptoms. Loss of coordination is often an initial sign of ataxia and difficulty in speaking commonly follows.

Other symptoms include:

  • Blurry vision.
  • Difficulty to swallow.
  • Fatigue.
  • Difficulty with precise muscle control.
  • Changes in mood or thinking.

There are several disorders that cause the symptom of ataxia, such as:

  • Tumors
  • Cranial injury
  • Multiple sclerosis.
  • Cerebral palsy.
  • Chickenpox and other viral infections.

Occasionally, ataxia is reversible when the underlying cause is treated . In other cases, ataxia disappears on its own.

Tumor in the cerebellum:

Tumors are abnormal cells that can grow in the brain. These tumors can start in the brain or migrate from a different part of the body. They can be benign, where they do not spread through the body. Malignant tumors grow and spread, triggering cancer.

Symptoms of the tumor in the brain:
  • Headaches.
  • Vomiting
  • Ataxia.
  • Lack of coordination.

Recommendations to keep the cerebellum healthy

Maintaining and promoting general brain health is the best way to avoid damage to the cerebellum. Reducing the risk of stroke, brain injury, and exposure to poisons can help prevent some forms of ataxia.

  • Stop smoking: Smoking increases the risk of stroke by thickening the blood and increasing blood pressure.
  • Reduce alcohol intake: Excess alcohol can damage the cerebellum, it also increases blood pressure, which increases the risk of stroke.
  • Doing exercises: Exercise is healthy for the heart and blood vessels and minimizes the risk of stroke.
  • Protect the head from bumps: Using safety belts, helmets and identifying possible safety hazards in the home reduces the risk of brain injury.
  • Avoid handling lead: Lead is no longer used in new construction, but older homes may have lead pipes and paint.