The cerebellum is a major part of the brain that plays a vital role in learning the sequence of the physical movement. It is located behind the top part of the brain stem (the posterior part of the brain, continues with the spinal cord) and is made of two hemisphere (the two halves of the brain). The cerebellum also assists with the eye movement and vision
The cerebellum receives information from the sensory system, the spinal cord and other parts of the brain to regulate the motor movements. The cerebellum helps in coordination of the voluntary movement such as the balance, coordination, posture and speech, resulting in smooth and balanced muscular activity. It also plays an important role in learning the motor behaviors.
The cerebellum is very small portion of the brain, which contains about ten percent of the total weight of the brain; but it contains roughly half of the brain’s neurons, specialized cells which transmits information via electrical signals.
The cerebellum is not a unique part in the human brain. It has been observed from the evolutionary point that it is an older portion of the brain. However, the scientists believe the existence of the cerebellum is before the existence of the human as it is present in the animal brains.
The cerebellum is divided into three regions, each of which is connected to a specific structure in the brain and involved in a specific function. The functions are described below in accordance with the specific part of the cerebellum:
i) The vestibulocerebellum or the archicerebellum is connected to the vestibule of the inner ear and helps to maintain the body balance. The vestibulocerebellum or the archicerebellum first appeared in fish.
ii) The spinocerebellum or palaeocerebellum is connected to the spinal cord and controls postural muscle activity by influencing muscle tonus in order to play its role in maintaining the body posture and a muscle must be tensed. Hence the cerebellum controls muscle tension every time while releasing the muscles which executes the movements. It is mainly consists of the vermis an axial structure which is superimposed over the archicerebellum in amphibians.
iii) The neocerebellum or cerebrocerebellum is superimposed on these two other parts in mammals. In primates it is more voluminous and especially the same in humans. The neocerebellum consists of the cerebellar hemisphere, which is connected to the cortex and contributes to the coordination of voluntary movements. However, among all others function it also ensures that when a set of muscle should initiates a movement. In order to arrive at its target by the specific body parts, the opposing set acts a brake.
A cortex which forms the grey matter at the surface of the and deep nuclei that serve as relays for the efferent (a nerve that conveys impulses toward or to muscles or glands) pathways leaving this cortex. There are four cerebellar nuclei on either side of the median line: the fastigial nuclei, also known as the roof, serve as relays for the archicerebellum; the emboliform and globose nuclei do so for the palaeocerebellum; and the dentate nuclei, located in the middle of each cerebellar hemisphere, do so for the neocerebellum.
The cerebellum also plays an important role in analyzing the movement associated with the visual signals. The cerebellum calculate the speed of such movements and apply motor commands accordingly. The errors in calculating such movements and gestures results in the poor motor control due to the damaged cerebellum.
Acute cerebellar ataxia (ACA) is a disorder that occurs when the cerebellum becomes disordered or damaged. Ataxia is term which refers to a lack of control towards a voluntary movements. It is also known as cerebellitis.
The viruses which cause damage to the cerebellum includes chickenpox, mumps, hepatitis A, measles, West Nile virus and the infection caused by the Epstein-Barr and Coxsackie viruses.
However, the other causes of the ACA includes:
i) head trauma
ii) bleeding in the cerebellum
iii) bacterial infection like lyme disease
iv) deficiencies of certain vitamins such as B-12, B-1 (thiamine) and E
v) exposure to mercury, lead, and other toxins
The symptoms of ACA includes:
i) frequent stumbling
ii) impaired coordination in the torso or arms and legs
iii) an unsteady gait
iv) uncontrolled or repetitive eye movements
vii) trouble eating and performing other fine motor tasks
viii) slurred speech
ix) vocal changes
However, these symptoms are associated with several other conditions that affects the nervous system but the above mentioned are the most common and observable symptom of ACA.
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