Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Speech and the Cerebellum
Department of General Neurology, Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen.
A classical tenet of clinical neurology proposes that cerebellar disorders may give rise to speech motor disorders (ataxic dysarthria), but spare perceptual and cognitive aspects of verbal communication. During the past two decades, however, a variety of higher-order deficits of speech production, e.g., more or less exclusive agrammatism, amnesic or transcortical motor aphasia, have been noted in patients with vascular cerebellar lesions, and transient mutism following resection of posterior fossa tumors in children may develop into similar constellations. Perfusion studies provided evidence for cerebello-cerebral diaschisis as a possible pathomechanism in these instances. Tight functional connectivity between the language-dominant frontal lobe and the contralateral cerebellar hemisphere represents a prerequisite of such long-distance effects. Recent functional imaging data point at a contribution of the right cerebellar hemisphere, concomitant with language-dominant dorsolateral and medial frontal areas, to the temporal organization of a prearticulatory verbal code ('inner speech'), in terms of the sequencing of syllable strings at a speaker's habitual speech rate. Besides motor control, this network also appears to be engaged in executive functions, e.g., subvocal rehearsal mechanisms of verbal working memory, and seems to be recruited during distinct speech perception tasks. Taken together, thus, a prearticulatory verbal code bound to reciprocal right cerebellar/left frontal interactions might represent a common platform for a variety of cerebellar engagements in cognitive functions. The distinct computational operation provided by cerebellar structures within this framework appears to be the concatenation of syllable strings into coarticulated sequences.
PMID: 17786816 [PubMed - in process]