The brain is one of the most complex organs in the body, and each part is responsible for a different set of functions. This lesson discusses the cerebellum and its function in the human body.
What Is the Cerebellum?
Your brain is one of the most complex and powerful organs in your body. It works as the computer mainframe, controlling the activities of all the other systems in the body. Due to its complexity in the human body, the human brain has developed compartments to specialize in particular functions.
Of those compartments, the second largest is known as the cerebellum.
The cerebellum is located inferior to (underneath) the occipital lobe of the cerebrum. It is in the proximity of the visual cortex of the cerebrum and is superior to (above) the pons and brain stem. The region is known as the rhombencephalon, or the hindbrain. The cerebellum is divided into two basic segments: anterior lobe and posterior lobe (in some cases, a third lobe known as the flocculonodular lobe is identified).
The cerebellum, in general, is responsible for controlling motor (movement) functions and muscle coordination. This means that the ability to control how we move, walk, talk, and other physical activities will be, in part, done by this portion of the brain. More specifically, the cerebellum will control the aspects of balance, equilibrium, and muscle tone, which are factors that provide for smooth movement and activity. Electrical impulses from the cerebellum stimulate muscles that are responsible for voluntary movement and works in coordination with the motor cortices of the cerebrum for this overall function.In addition to the sense of equilibrium and balance that the cerebellum controls, it also is responsible for motor learning. This means that it is responsible for an individual learning a particular movement or action and facilitates the development of it.
For example, as a baby learns to walk the cerebellum stores information necessary in order for walking to progressively develop. Similarly, when learning to play sports a large portion of the routine activities will be stored in the cerebellum as the individual becomes more proficient in the activity. Essentially, the cerebellum helps us to learn how to do certain activities by storing information necessary for development.
Originally, it was thought that the cerebellum was only responsible for motor coordination.
Scientists are finding out that this is not actually the case. Recent studies have shown that the cerebellum contains regions that assist in emotional control and some cognitive (mental) processing. In other words, it may play a role in how we feel, how we express these feelings, and some aspects of how we think and process information. As this is newer information, it is important to discuss these findings as additional potential functions of the cerebellum; however, it is still maintained that the primary function is for motor coordination.
Let’s review. The cerebellum is a vital part of the brain and is primarily responsible for motor control. This includes muscle tone, equilibrium, and balance as it relates to movement.
Additionally, it seems the cerebellum may actually have additional functions, including some cognitive and emotional functions. In the end, the cerebellum is important and without it the ability of humans to move would be seriously affected.