How social is the cerebellum? Exploring the effects of cerebellar transcranial direct current stimulation on the prediction of social and physical events

Viola Oldrati, Elisabetta Ferrari, Niccolò Butti, Zaira Cattaneo, Renato Borgatti, Cosimo Urgesi, Alessandra Finisguerra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Congenital or acquired cerebellum alterations are associated with a complex pattern of motor, cognitive and social disorders. These disturbances may reflect the involvement of the cerebellum in generating and updating the internal models that sub-serve-the prediction of sensory events. Here, we tested whether the cerebellar involvement in using contextual expectations to interpret ambiguous sensory sceneries is specific for social actions or also extends to physical events. We applied anodic, cathodic and sham cerebellar transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (ctDCS) to modulate the performance of an adult sample in two tasks requiring the prediction of social actions or moving shapes. For both tasks, in an earlier implicit-learning phase (familiarization), we manipulated the probability of co-occurrence between a particular action/shape and contextual elements, which could provide either strongly or moderately informative expectations. The use of these expectations was then tested when participants had to predict the unfolding of temporally occluded videos, in situations of perceptual uncertainty (testing). Results showed that in the testing, but not in the familiarization phase, cathodic as compared to anodic and sham ctDCS hindered participants' sensitivity in predicting actions embedded in strongly, but not moderately, informative contexts. Conversely, anodic as compared to sham ctDCS boosted the prediction of actions embedded in moderately, but not strongly, informative contexts. We observed no ctDCS effects for the shape prediction task, thus pointing to a specific involvement of the cerebellum in forming expectations related to social events. Our results encourage the exploration of rehabilitative effects of ctDCS in patients with social perception deficits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)671-684
Number of pages14
JournalZeitschrift fur Anatomie und Entwicklungsgeschichte
Volume226
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jan 11 2021

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