Executive control of motor responses is a psychological construct of the executive system. Several studies have demonstrated the involvement of the cerebral cortex, basal ganglia, and thalamus in the inhibition of actions and monitoring of performance. The involvement of the cerebellum in cognitive function and its functional interaction with basal ganglia have recently been reported. Based on these findings, we examined the hypothesis of cerebellar involvement in executive control by administering a countermanding task in patients with focal cerebellar damage. The countermanding task requires one to make a movement in response to a 'go' signal and to halt it when a 'stop' signal is presented. The duration of the go process (reaction time; RT), the duration of the stop process (stop signal reaction time; SSRT), and their relationship, expressed by a psychometric function, are recorded as measures of executive control. All patients had longer go process duration in general and in particular, as a proactive control, as demonstrated by the increase in RT after erroneously performed stop trials. Further, they were defective in the slope of the psychometric function indicating a difficulty on triggering the stop process, although the SSRT did not differ from controls. Notably, their performance was worse when lesions affected deep cerebellar nuclei. Our results support the hypothesis that the cerebellum regulates the executive control of voluntary actions. We speculate that its activity is attributed to specific cerebellar influence over the cortico-striatal loop.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)