Interesting facts about Cerebellum - The Little Brain
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Interesting facts about Cerebellum:The Little Brain

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 14 Mar 2014 - 16:17.

The human cerebellum also known as the "Little Brain" is situated just above the brain stem and toward the back of the brain. It plays an important role in the motor control (the integration of sensory information, both about the world and the current state of the body to generate the desired movement or action). The cerebellum does not initiate movement, but it contributes to coordination and precision when it receives inputs from the spinal cord plus other parts of the brain, and integrates these inputs to fine tune motor activity. 

Compared to other parts of the brain like frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, the cerebellum by virtue of its strategic position is well protected. Cerebellum is a part of the hindbrain, the other parts being the pons and the medulla. Located at the lower back part of the brain, the cerebellum is a fist-sized structure, which can be compared to a powerful computer capable of making contributions both to the mental and motor dexterity of a human being.

Cerebellum Anatomy

Anatomically the cerebellum is divided into three regions each of which performs a separate function and is connected to the main brain by specific structures. Each region is responsible for a particular type of action:

  • The archicerebellum also known as vestibulocerebellum is connected to the vestibule of the inner ear which is involved in maintaining balance.
  • The palaeocerebellum also called spinocerebellum consists of an axial structure called vermis which is connected to the spinal cord. It controls the postural muscle activity and muscle tension. The cerebellum controls the muscle tension to help release the muscles to execute a movement.
  • The neocerebellum also called cerebrocerebellum is superimposed on the above referred two other parts. It is voluminous in humans which consist of the cerebellar hemispheres. It, is connected to the cortex and enables the co-ordination of voluntary movements. 

All thethree regions work in perfect synchronization with specific functions depending upon the information and messages they receive. Human cerebellum with its enormous external connections to all parts of the brain has an extraordinary mechanism. 

Some of the following mind boggling features include:

  • More Neurons: It has more nerve cells (called neurons) than the rest of the brain put together.
  • Rapid Mechanism: It has a more rapidly acting mechanism than any other part of the brain with a capacity to quickly process whatever information it receives from other parts of the brain 
  • Recieves Information: Cerebellum is the only part of the whole brain, which receives enormous amount of information from the highest level of the human brain (the Cerebral Cortex) with more than 40 million nerve fibers connecting the cerebellum.
  • Highly Connected: It has 40 times more connections than the optic tracts, which convey visual information to the brain, received through the eyes.
  • Assimilation of Information: The cerebellum has the unique capacity to receive enormous information from motor area, cognitive area, sensory areas, language areas and even areas involved in emotional functions, all of which are situated in the cerebral cortex connected to the cerebellum, with an ability to quickly assimilate and process each need, as speedily as it receives the information.

Some Interesting Fun Facts About Cerebellum:

  • The brain structure changes when you learn something new.
  • The human brain has the same texture as tofu
  • The brain made of 60% fat
  • Your brain uses 20% of the total oxygen and blood in your body
  • Music triggers activity in the same brain area that releases the "pleasure chemical" dopamine during sex and eating.
  • New brain connections are created every time you form a memory
  • The brain cells take just 6 minutes to react to alcohol.
  • When you blackout on getting drunk, the brain temporarily loses the ability to create memories, you don’t forget anything.
  • Just like physical pain, the brain treats rejection too, say scientists
  • Using mobile phone long term significantly raises the risk of brain tumors, finds study
  • Deprivation from sleep can affect the brain in various ways leading to slow reaction and impaired judgment
  • By deleting unnecessary information from your memory helps the nervous system retain its plasticity. So, forgetting is good for the brain.
  • During orgasms the brain releases as much dopamine (chemical) as someone on heroin as seen from brain scan
  • The chocolate smell increases theta brain waves, which triggers relaxation.
  • A small dose of power changes how a person's brain operates and diminishes empathy – proven scientifically
  • In your waking state, the brain produces enough electricity to power a small light bulb.
  • Dieting could force your brain to eat itself, say scientists.
  • The pathologist who did an autopsy on Einstein's body, stole his brain and kept it in a jar for 20 years.

Broadly speaking the Human Cerebellum is involved in the coordination of voluntary movement, balance and muscle tone.

Functions of the Cerebellum:

To understand the importance of a normal cerebellum let us analyze one of its day-to-day occurring functions. The sudden breaks that you apply while driving, to save from a danger - the reflex associated with such an action is accomplished by the cerebellum. The cerebellum participates in fine tuning and co-ordination of movements produced in other parts of the brain, and it integrates all the information to produce smooth harmonious movements which we are not even aware of during every movement or action we perform

The visual reflexes send messages to the brain about danger ahead. The cerebral cortex sends information to the cerebellum which in turn quickly analyzes the situation and sends orders to the cerebral cortex to effect immediate action of the muscles involved in applying brake, may be the hand or foot muscles, and hence apply brakes. It povides control over the timing of the movement of the body precisely. It has the ability to learn and remember because of its distinctive cell structure.

Similar examples like running when someone is chasing you, some animal is trying to catch you, crying when someone beats you or laughing when something good has happened etc, are all acts accomplished by the cerebellum through its multitude of nerve connections with every part of the brain.

Cerebellum Disorders:

Any damage to the cerebellum might lead to several disorders, which can be summed up as under:

  • Asynergia:Loss of coordination of motor movement                                
  • Dysmetria: Inability to judge distance and when to stop termed as 
  • Adiadochokinesia: Inability to perform rapid alternating movements 
  • Intention tremors: Tremors during movements 
  • Ataxic gait: Staggering wide based walking 
  • Falling tendency:  possibility of falling
  • Hypotonia: Weak muscles 
  • Dysarthria: Slurred speech
  • Nystagmus: Abnormal eye movements 
  • Cerebellar syndrome which cause problems to coordination of balance and posture. It manifests the damage to the brain.
  • Charcot’s Triad - Cerebellar damage cause patients to be unsteady on their feet, their hands shaske as they try  to lift objects or point towards an object; their eyes are not focused and swing uncontrollably from side to side; and have jerky speech. These 3 signs are known as ‘Charcot's Triad’, named after Charcot, a French Neurologist of the 19th century.

The midline division of the cerebellum is believed to be the commonest site for primary brain tumors.

Degenerative disorders of the cerebellum include alcoholism, leading to degeneration of the anterior division of the cerebellum causing ataxic gait. Hypothyroidism, various toxins like carbon monoxide poisoning, hyperpyrexia (very high fever) and repeated trauma to head are some of the conditions, which can cause cerebellar degeneration.

 

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.