A causal role for the cerebellum in semantic integration: a transcranial magnetic stimulation study

Daniele Gatti, Floris Van Vugt, Tomaso Vecchi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mounting evidence suggests that the cerebellum, a structure previously linked to motor function, is also involved in a wide range of non-motor processes. It has been proposed that the cerebellum performs the same computational processes in both motor and non-motor domains. Within motor functions, the cerebellum is involved in the integration of signals from multiple systems. Here we hypothesized that cerebellum may be involved in integration within semantic memory as well. Specifically, understanding a noun-adjective combination (e.g. red apple) requires combining the meaning of the adjective (red) with the meaning of the noun (apple). In two experiments, participants were asked to judge whether noun-adjective word-pairs were semantically related (e.g., red apple) or not (e.g., lucky milk) while online transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was administered over the right cerebellum or over a control site (vertex in Experiment 1 and visual cortex in Experiment 2). Cerebellar TMS caused a decrease in participants' accuracy for related word-pairs while accuracy for unrelated stimuli was not affected. A third experiment using a control task where subjects compared pairs of random letters showed no effect of TMS. Taken together these results indicate that the right cerebellum is involved specifically in the processing of semantically related stimuli. These results are consistent with theories that proposed the existence of a unified cerebellar function within motor and non-motor domains, as well with recent perspectives about cerebellar involvement in semantic memory and predictive cognition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18139
JournalSci. Rep.
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Oct 23 2020


  • Adult
  • Cerebellum/physiology
  • Comprehension/physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory/physiology
  • Reaction Time
  • Semantics
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation
  • Young Adult


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