The Cerebellum and Motor Learning


The cerebellum is a crucial structure involved in motor control and learning processes. Although imaging and studies in patients with cerebellar disease have helped understand the cerebellar role in different motor behaviors, little is known about the neurophysiological changes occurring in the cerebellum during human motor learning.

Dr. Pablo Celnik, in this talk, “Using Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation to Study Cerebellar Contributions to Motor Learning”, will present a series of recent studies performed in humans investigating cerebellar neurophysiological changes associated with learning and how manipulation of cerebellar excitability affects motor learning processes.

First, Dr. Celnik will describe how cerebellar excitability is specifically modulated in association to motor learning. Then he will show that it is possible to modulate cerebellar excitability in humans using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). Finally, he will present two studies that found that enhancing cerebellar excitability with anodal tDCS improves learning of a hand and a locomotor behavior.

These investigations indicate that it is possible to determine neurophysiological processes underlying behaviors that involve the cerebellum -- that we can up- and down-regulate cerebellar excitability using non-invasive brain stimulation techniques, and that this modulation has an impact on behavior. These results are promising not only to advance our understanding of the role of the cerebellum in motor control, but also to develop strategies to enhance performance, learning and possibly recovery in patients with brain lesions.

Pablo Celnik, MD, is Associate Professor in the Departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Neurology at Johns Hopkins University.

Upcoming presentations in the Stimulating Brain Health series:

Friday November 30, 12:00pm
Barbara Knowlton, PhD
UCLA Dept. of Psychology
Title: TBA

Friday December 7, 12:00pm
Charles Hillman, PhD
University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Dept. of Kinesiology & Community Health
Title: “The relation of fitness to brain health, cognition, and academic achievement in preadolescent children”

This seminar series is co-sponsored by the U-M School of Kinesiology, the U-M Department of Psychology, and the U-M Medical School.