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Diseases of the cerebellum: characteristics and symptoms

Diseases of the cerebellum: characteristics and symptoms

May 27, 2024

Generally when talking about the brain and / or the brain, we usually think of the area known as the cerebral cortex, the most visible part from the outside. However, on a few occasions there is a tendency to think of a structure located in its lower and posterior part between the trunk of the brain and the occipital lobe, resembling a second brain in smaller dimensions. We are talking about the cerebellum .

This area is fundamental for our survival, so that injuries or alterations in it suppose the presence of serious complications at different levels, both motor, emotional and cognitive. That is why in this article we will make a brief review of different alterations and diseases of the cerebellum and how they can affect us.

  • Related article: "Human cerebellum: its parts and functions"

The cerebellum: that little unknown

The cerebellum is a structure in the shape of a ball of wool that is located in the back of the brain, specifically behind the brainstem and below the occipital lobe, as I mentioned before.

Despite its size, it is a complex structure that almost resembles a second encephalon: It has its own crust with two hemispheres united by a structure called vermis, bundles of white matter, nuclei and cerebellar peduncles. It has both excitatory and inhibitory neurons.

Although apparently less named than other cortical or subcortical structures, the cerebellum is of great importance in different vital aspects for the human being, participating in different cognitive and language functions, in emotionality, in the feedback received by the movement and in fine motor skills In fact, this structure contains more than half of brain neurons .

It has also been shown that the cerebellum is linked to the heartbeat and its frequency. However, traditionally it was considered that only possessed functions related to motor skills, not being until more recent times when it has begun to verify its relevance in other areas.

So we are facing a structure with a lot of functions , with which damages in the cerebellum can trigger serious repercussions in the life of the person.

  • You may be interested: "Parts of the human brain (and functions)"

General symptoms

While the type and location of the damage in particular will determine to a greater or lesser extent the symptoms that are going to manifest, roughly we can say that a disease of the cerebellum or the presence of different lesions in it may cause the following symptoms .


Ataxia is the lack or absence of stability, coordination and maintenance of the posture and the movement. In the case of damage to the cerebellum is one of the most recognizable symptoms. Damages in this region will cause imbalances and uncontrolled and inaccurate movements.

  • Related article: "Ataxia: causes, symptoms and treatments"

Other motor alterations

The presence of uncontrolled tremors, upheavals of the maintenance of the march or muscular dystrophy can be caused by injury or illness of the cerebellum.

Alterations in memory

Memory, especially procedural memory, is linked to the cerebellum and basal ganglia among other areas. The destruction of part or all of the cerebellum causes serious difficulties in this type of learning .

Alterations of speech

It is frequent that alterations of the cerebellum cause diverse forms of anomalies in the communication and expression of the language. One of the most frequent is dysarthria .

Cognitive disorders

Several studies show that the activity of the cerebellum has a certain level of relationship with the level of intelligence manifested. In this sense, a damaged cerebellum could contribute to decrease the intellectual abilities of those affected .

Perceptual alterations

Different diseases of the cerebellum can cause perceptual alterations, especially in areas related to vision and hearing .

Participation in different mental disorders

The alteration or injury of the cerebellum or its functioning can help to generate or maintain various types of psychic disorders, such as autism, anxiety, ADHD, schizophrenia or mood disorders (the latter especially linked to the vermis).

Main diseases of the cerebellum

There are different types of alterations and diseases that can affect this structure the nervous system. Some of the different diseases of the cerebellum that we can find are the following.

Friedreich's ataxia

This disease is one of the most well-known types of ataxia due to genetic causes.The most evident symptoms are the presence of rigidity, ocular uncoordination, instability and imbalance, dysarthria and different bone problems. They can also appear vision and hearing problems, tremors and metabolic disorders such as diabetes. It is a neurodegenerative condition .


The presence of a tumor inside the skull is a serious risk for those who suffer from it, even if it is a benign cyst since the pressure exerted against the skull destroys the neurons of the system. In the case of the cerebellum we can find tumors of different types , as well as a link between the lesions that can cause in the cerebellum and the presence of cognitive deterioration.

Von Hippel-Lindau disease

This disease of the cerebellum is caused by a mutation of a gene of chromosome three , which does not appear or is defective. Its most known effect is the provocation of different tumors in different areas of the body, including the cerebellum.

Cerebellar syndrome

Disease characterized by the presence of ataxia, hypotonia, changes in gait, motor slowing, tremor during the performance of actions and / or nystagmus due

Joubert syndrome

It is a disease of the cerebellum of genetic origin in which the vermis that connects both hemispheres of the cerebellum is deformed or simply does not exist, so that communication between hemispheres can not be done correctly. The patient usually presents symptoms similar to autism. It usually causes developmental delay, intellectual disability, echopraxia, hypotonia and ataxia, among other symptoms.


Inflammation of the brain for various reasons, whether viral or bacterial (can be produced for example by tuberculosis) or produced by infection of the cerebellum or nearby structures.

Dandy-Walker syndrome

This disease of the cerebellum causes that part of the cerebellar vermis does not exist or is deformed, in addition to having a fourth enlarged internal ventricle and producing cysts inside the skull. It usually causes muscular dystrophy, visual disturbances, spasticity and seizures.

  • Maybe you are interested: "Dandy Walker malformation: causes, symptoms and treatment"


The presence of strokes and strokes it can cause neuronal death in large part of the cerebellum. The symptoms depend on the location and degree of involvement of the area in question.

Injuries and traumatisms

Although it is not a disease of the cerebellum, the presence of lesions generated by different traumas can cause serious damage in this region of the brain. It is common for them to cause engine slowdown and that possible injuries and abilities take longer than usual to recover.

Bibliographic references:

  • Baillieux, H .; De Smet, H. J .; Dobbeleir, A .; Paquier, P. F .; From Deyn, P; Mariën, P. (2010). Cognitive and affective disturbances following focal cerebellum damage in adults: A neuropsychological and SPECT study. CORTEX, 46, 869-897.
  • Daroff, R.B. & Bradley, W.G. (2012). Bradley's neurology in clinical practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia: Elsevier / Saunders.
  • Joyal, C.C., Meyer, C., Jacquart, G., Mahler, P., Caston, J. and Lalonde, R. (1996). Effects of midline and lateral cerebellar lesions on motor coordination and spatial orientation.Brain Research, 739 (1-2), 1-11.

Cerebellar Gait (May 2024).

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