What does the cerebellum have to do with emotional memory?

dThe cerebellum is often left out when we talk about ‘the brain’ – probably because it is visually different from the cerebrum. It is significantly involved in movement sequence processing and equilibrium regulation – and apparently in emotional memory processes, as neuroscientists at the University of Basel wrote in a scientific publication in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences report.

They showed the 1,418 study participants both emotional images – with positive or negative connotations – and neutral images. In a later memory test, the participants mainly remembered the emotional images, while their brain activity was measured using functional magnetic resonance imaging. It turned out that certain parts of the cerebellum were particularly active and interact more intensively with different parts of the cerebrum, such as the amygdala or the hippocampus, which are involved in processing emotional memory content.

Previous studies in rats and cats had shown that electrical stimulation of the so-called vermis, part of the cerebellum, is linked to the limbic system – which includes the hippocampus and the amygdala. The latter plays an important role in conditioning fear responses, among other things.

The results of the study now suggest that the vermis is also involved in transferring emotional (visual) content to our episodic memory. Simply put, episodic memory is responsible for the fact that we consciously remember “biographical” events, ie we can classify them in time. According to the scientists, the findings may contribute to a better understanding of mental illnesses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and autism spectrum disorders.

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