Tech UPTechnologyThey discover an unknown function of the cerebellum

They discover an unknown function of the cerebellum


We already know that our brain is an organ of great complexity. So much so that we are still unraveling all its mysteries. Even certain details of our human body, such as the functioning of our cerebellum, still surprise scientists.

The cerebellum is the region primarily known for the regulation of movement. Now, a team of scientists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have discovered that the cerebellum also plays an important role in remembering emotional experiences. Specifically, that cerebellar-brain connections affect how the brain stores emotional memories.


Vital for positive and negative experiences

Both positive and negative emotional experiences are stored fairly well in human memory. It is not a trivial tool for us; just the opposite. It has been and is crucial for our survival, as we need to remember dangerous situations to avoid them in the future.

Previous research had shown that a brain structure called the amygdala, an important area in the processing of emotions (which in turn facilitates the storage of information in various areas of the brain), plays a central role in this phenomenon. Also the hippocampus ; But since the cerebellum is already involved in fear conditioning, researchers in the current study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, wanted to see if it, too, had a crucial role to play in recording emotional memories.

“The aim of the present study was to investigate whether the cerebellum and cerebellar-cerebellar connections are involved in the phenomenon of superior episodic memory for emotionally arousing visual information,” the researchers write.

Sample: 1,418 participants

In a large-scale study, researchers showed emotional and neutral images to 1,418 participants and recorded the subjects’ brain activity using magnetic resonance imaging . Subsequently, they carried out a memory test in which it was clear that the volunteers remembered the positive and negative images much better than the neutral images. Better storage of emotional images was associated with increased brain activity in brain areas already known to be vital at this end. However, the team also identified increased activity in the cerebellum.

“These results indicate that the cerebellum is an integral component of a network that is responsible for the enhanced storage of emotional information,” explains Dominique de Quervain of the University of Basel and co-author of the work.

During this study, first author Matthias Fastenrath and colleagues found that more than two dozen brain ROI ( Region of Interest ) scans were involved in improving emotional memory.

Communication between the cerebrum and the cerebellum is bidirectional, experts say. Emotional information can flow “upstream” from the cerebellum to the cerebrum or “downstream” in the opposite direction.

These findings could be useful in showing us how to repair that circuitry when something goes wrong, such as when memories aren’t stored correctly or perhaps imprinted too clearly in our brains, something that could be very beneficial for mental health.

“These findings further knowledge about the role of the cerebellum in complex cognitive and emotional processes and may be relevant to understanding psychiatric disorders with aberrant emotional circuitry, such as posttraumatic stress disorder or autism spectrum disorder ,” write the authors. authors.

The current study is part of a large-scale research project conducted by the Research Platform for Cognitive and Molecular Neurosciences (MCN) at the University of Basel and the University Psychiatric Clinics (UPK) Basel. The goal is to gain a better understanding of emotional and cognitive processes and to transfer the results of basic research to clinical projects.

Referencia: Matthias Fastenrath, Klara Spalek, David Coynel, Eva Loos, Annette Milnik, Tobias Egli, Nathalie Schicktanz, Léonie Geissmann, Benno Roozendaal, Andreas Papassotiropoulos, Dominique J.-F. de Quervain. Human cerebellum and corticocerebellar connections involved in emotional memory enhancement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2022; 119 (41) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2204900119

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