Cortical networks of procedural learning: Evidence from cerebellar damage

Sara Torriero, Massimiliano Oliveri, Giacomo Koch, Emanuele Lo Gerfo, Silvia Salerno, Laura Petrosini, Carlo Caltagirone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The lateral cerebellum plays a critical role in procedural learning that goes beyond the strict motor control functions attributed to it. Patients with cerebellar damage show marked impairment in the acquisition of procedures, as revealed by their performance on the serial reaction time task (SRTT). Here we present the case of a patient affected by ischemic damage involving the left cerebellum who showed a selective deficit in procedural learning while performing the SRTT with the left hand. The deficit recovered when the cortical excitability of an extensive network involving both cerebellar hemispheres and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) was decreased by low-frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). Although inhibition of the right DLPFC or a control fronto-parietal region did not modify the patient's performance, inhibition of the right (unaffected) cerebellum and the left DLPFC markedly improved task performance. These findings could be explained by the modulation of a set of inhibitory and excitatory connections between the lateral cerebellum and the contralateral prefrontal area induced by rTMS. The presence of left cerebellar damage is likely associated with a reduced excitatory drive from sub-cortical left cerebellar nuclei towards the right DLPFC, causing reduced excitability of the right DLPFC and, conversely, unbalanced activation of the left DLPFC. Inhibition of the left DLPFC would reduce the unbalancing of cortical activation, thus explaining the observed selective recovery of procedural memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1208-1214
Number of pages7
JournalNeuropsychologia
Volume45
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007

Keywords

  • Cerebellum
  • DLPFC
  • rTMS
  • Stroke

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology

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