Cerebellar Damage Affects Contextual Priors for Action Prediction in Patients with Childhood Brain Tumor

N. Butti, C. Corti, A. Finisguerra, A. Bardoni, R. Borgatti, G. Poggi, C. Urgesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Predictive coding accounts of action perception sustain that kinematics information is compared with contextual top-down predictions (i.e., priors) to understand actions in conditions of perceptual ambiguity. It has been previously shown that the cerebellum contributes to motor simulation of observed actions. Here, we tested the hypothesis that a specific contribution of the cerebellum to action perception is to provide contextual priors that guide the sampling of perceptual kinematic information. To this aim, we compared the performance of 42 patients with childhood brain tumor affecting infratentorial (ITT) or supratentorial (STT) areas with that of peers with typical development in an action prediction task. First, participants were exposed to videos depicting a child performing different reaching-to-grasp actions, which were associated with contextual cues in a probabilistic fashion. Then, they were presented with shortened versions of the same videos and asked to infer the action outcome; since kinematics was ambiguous, we expected their responses would be biased toward the previously learned contextual priors. We found that patients with brain tumor were impaired in predicting actions when compared to healthy controls. However, STT patients presented a reliable probabilistic effect, while ITT patients, who had cerebellar damage, did not rely on contextual priors in predicting actions. Furthermore, we found an association between the use of contextual priors and the ability to infer others’ mental states as assessed by a standardized test. These results suggest that the cerebellum provides contextual priors to understand others’ actions and this predictive function might underlie complex social cognition abilities. © 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)799-811
Number of pages13
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Action prediction
  • Cerebellum
  • Childhood brain tumor
  • Predictive coding
  • Social cognition


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