Recent anatomical studies have revealed strong cerebellar projections into parietal and prefrontal cortex. These findings suggest that the cerebellum might not only play a functional role in motor control but also cognitive domains, an idea also supported by neuropsychological testing of patients with cerebellar lesions that has revealed specific deficits. The goal of the present study was to test whether or not cognitive impairments after cerebellar damage are resulting from changes in cerebro-cortical signal processing. The detection of global visual motion embedded in noise, a faculty compromised after cerebellar lesions, was chosen as a model system. Using magnetoencephalography, cortical responses were recorded in a group of patients with cerebellar lesions (n = 8) and controls (n = 13) who observed visual motion of varied coherence, i.e., motion strength, presented in the peripheral visual field during controlled stationary fixation. Corroborating earlier results, the patients showed a significant impairment in global motion discrimination despite normal fixation behavior. This deficit was paralleled by qualitative differences in responses recorded from parieto-temporal cortex, including a reduced responsiveness to coherent visual motion and a striking loss of bilateral representations of motion coherence. Moreover, the perceptual thresholds correlated with the cortical representation of motion strength on single subject basis. These results demonstrate that visual motion processing in cerebral cortex critically depends on an intact cerebellum and establish a correlation between cortical activity and impaired visual perception resulting from cerebellar damage.
Händel, B. F., Thier, P., & Haarmeier, T. (2009). Visual motion perception deficits due to cerebellar lesions are paralleled by specific changes in cerebro-cortical activity. Journal of Neuroscience, 29(48), 15126-15133. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3972-09.2009