Cerebellum and Apraxia

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Marien, P. ; van Dun, K. ; Verhoeven, J. (2015)

As early as the beginning of the nineteenth century, a variety of nonmotor cognitive and affective impairments associated with cerebellar pathology were occasionally documented. A causal link between cerebellar disease and nonmotor cognitive and affective disorders has, however, been dismissed for almost two centuries. During the past decades, the prevailing view of the cerebellum as a mere coordinator of autonomic and somatic motor function has changed fundamentally. Substantial progress has been made in elucidating the neuroanatomical connections of the cerebellum with the supratentorial association cortices that subserve nonmotor cognition and affect. Furthermore, functional neuroimaging studies and neurophysiological and neuropsychological research have shown that the cerebellum is crucially involved in modulating cognitive and affective processes. This paper presents an overview of the clinical and neuroradiological evidence supporting the view that the cerebellum plays an intrinsic part in purposeful, skilled motor actions. Despite the increasing number of studies devoted to a further refinement of the typology and anatomoclinical configurations of apraxia related to cerebellar pathology, the exact underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of cerebellar involvement remain to be elucidated. As genuine planning, organization, and execution disorders of skilled motor actions not due to motor, sensory, or general intellectual failure, the apraxias following disruption of the cerebrocerebellar network may be hypothetically considered to form part of the executive cluster of the cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome (CCAS), a highly influential concept defined by Schmahmann and Sherman (Brain 121:561–579, 1998) on the basis of four symptom clusters grouping related neurocognitive and affective deficits (executive, visuospatial, affective, and linguistic impairments). However, since only a handful of studies have explored the possible role of the cerebellum in apraxic disorders, the pathophysiological mechanisms subserving cerebellar-induced apraxia remain to be elucidated.
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