Calling all "Brain Nerds"!

While listening to NPR yesterday, I heard about a fascinating line of research into the cerebellum.  Now, when I was learning about the cerebellum, we thought it was primarily for balance and coordination of movement.  The cerebellum isn't responsible for you actually moving your muscles (that's the motor cortex of the frontal lobe with 'directions' coming from the prefrontal lobe and other areas of the brain) but it IS responsible for allowing you to move them in a smooth, coordinated way - not in a clumsy way.  (hmmm.... maybe I have a cerebellar problem)  The cerebellum is also one of the first parts of the brain to be affected by alcohol which is why sobriety tests involve balance and coordination tasks.  Anyway, this was what neuroscientists have thought was the primary function of the cerebellum for years.

New research is finding that the cerebellum has OTHER functions as well.  Functions that are related to thinking and emotions.  In fact, it appears that the cerebellum helps to smooth and coordinate thoughts, reasoning, and emotions as well!  Reaction time (cognitive function), emotional complexity, understanding social cues...  all are related to cerebellar function.  Some researchers even suggest that some of the symptoms seen in autism and schizophrenia are directly tied to cerebellar dysfunction.  Very, very cool.  But I'm a geek. :)

If you're interested in the NPR report, here are the links.