The cerebellum was historically considered a brain region dedicated to motor control but it has become clear that it also contributes to sensory processing, particularly when sensory discrimination is required. Prior work, for example, has demonstrated a cerebellar contribution to sensory discrimination in the visual and auditory systems. The cerebellum also receives extensive inputs from the motion and gravity sensors in the vestibular labyrinth, but its role in the perception of head motion and orientation has received little attention. Drawing on the lesion-deficit approach to understanding brain function, we evaluated the contributions of the cerebellum to head motion perception by measuring perceptual thresholds in two subjects with congenital agenesis of the cerebellum. We used a set of passive motion paradigms that activated the semicircular canals or otolith organs in isolation or combination, and compared results of the agenesis patients with healthy control subjects. Perceptual thresholds for head motion were elevated in the agenesis subjects for all motion protocols, most prominently for paradigms that only activated otolith inputs. These results demonstrate that the cerebellum increases the sensitivity of the brain to the motion and orientation signals provided by the labyrinth during passive head movements.
- Copyright © 2015, Journal of Neurophysiology