The cerebellum is located at the bottom of the skull near the opening to the spinal cord. It is divided into two hemispheres by the central “vermis.”
The cerebellum coordinates movement, planning, motor activities, physical skills and some cognitive abilities. It collects sensory nerve inputs, such as vision, balance information and limb position, and synthesizes them to control movement. Cerebellar memory stores information from trial and error of physical tasks, e.g., riding a bike. The primary function of the cerebellum is to coordinate the timing and force of muscular contractions so that body movements are appropriate for the intended task.
Symptoms frequently associated with damage to the cerebellum include:
- Dysdiadokokinesia (difficulty in performing rapid alternating movements)
- Ataxia (difficulty coordinating timing, force, range and direction of movements)
- Loss of balance and vertigo (resulting in shuffling walk and a wide stance)
- Loss of muscle or posture tone, or muscle weakness
- Dysarthria (loss of coordination of the muscles controlling speech)
- Deficit in verbal working memory
- Slow or slurred speech
Many times it is difficult to diagnose what part of the brain is injured. Neuropsychology is the study of the relationship between the brain and behavior. Neuropsychologists perform tests to evaluate cognitive function and emotional status in order to identify problems which can then be linked to a physical cause. A neuropsychological evaluation (NPE) includes a series of assessments ranging from standard IQ tests, to personality tests, to fine motor control evaluation, all of which usually takes several hours.