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Previously unknown function of the cerebellum discovered
10/06/2022, 7:49 PM
Particularly emotional experiences settle in people’s memories. As researchers have discovered, a lesser-explored brain region plays an important role: the cerebellum. It helps us remember especially well – which also has its disadvantages.
When it comes to the human brain, the neocortex has long been the focus of attention. Because this part of the cerebrum is responsible for thinking and speaking. On the other hand, the role of the cerebellum is poorly understood. It contains four times more nerve cells than the neocortex. Until now, it was known that the cerebellum is responsible for learning complex movement sequences, such as those required during instrument making. But researchers from the University of Basel have now found that the cerebellum also plays an important role in remembering emotional experiences.
Emotional experiences, both positive and negative, are particularly well stored in memory. This phenomenon is necessary for survival, for example, we have to remember dangerous situations in order to avoid them in the future. Previous studies have shown that a brain structure called the amygdala, which is important for processing emotion, plays a central role in this phenomenon. Emotions activate the amygdala, which in turn facilitates the storage of information in different areas of the brain.
In the current work, researchers led by Dominique de Quervain and Andreas Paposotiropoulos of the University of Basel investigated the role of the cerebellum in storing emotional experiences, such as those from the University of Basel. message writes. In a large-scale study, the results of which appear in the expert journal “PNAS” When published, researchers showed emotional and neutral pictures to more than 1,400 study participants. Meanwhile, they recorded the subjects’ brain activity using magnetic resonance imaging.
The cerebellum is strongly activated during emotion
The result was that study participants remembered both positive and negative images better than neutral images in a subsequent memory test. Improved storage of emotional images was associated with increased brain activity in familiar areas of the brain. In addition, the research team observed strong activation in the cerebellum.
The researchers were also able to show that the cerebellum communicates more intensively with different regions of the brain during improved storage of emotional images. It receives information from a brain region important for the perception and evaluation of emotions, the so-called cingulate gyrus. The cerebellum also sends signals to various brain regions, including the amygdala and hippocampus. The latter plays a central role in memory storage.
“The present results indicate that the cerebellum is an integral part of a network responsible for improved storage of emotional information,” says de Quervain. Although an improved memory is an important mechanism for emotional experiences, it also has disadvantages: in the case of very negative experiences, it can promote recurrent anxiety. Therefore, the findings that have now been published may also be important for the understanding of psychiatric clinical pictures such as post-traumatic stress disorder.
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