Movement, Timing, and the Cerebellum

Science's STKE  03 Jun 2003:
Vol. 2003, Issue 185, pp. tw213-TW213
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2003.185.tw213

The cerebellum plays an important role in numerous motor tasks, but its precise function in the timing of movements is still not fully understood. Spencer et al. examined the performance of patients with cerebellar lesions on discrete versus continuous movements. The cycle duration in discrete movements was more variable in the impaired limb than in the unimpaired limb. In continuous movements, however, the performance of the impaired limb was as good as the unimpaired limb. The authors conclude that the cerebellum is essential in providing an explicit temporal goal for discrete movements but is not essential for continuous movements. The timing of continuous movements arises instead as an emergent property from other brain areas.

R. M. C. Spencer, H. N. Zelaznik, J. Diedrichsen, R. B. Ivry, Disrupted timing of discontinuous but not continuous movements by cerebellar lesions. Science 300, 1437-1439 (2003). [Abstract] [Full Text]