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cerebellum and language?

Matthew Belmonte mkb4 at Cornell.EDU
Thu Feb 29 17:11:21 EST 1996

In article <4h2jm3$h41 at vixen.cso.uiuc.edu>, kspencer at s.psych.uiuc.edu
(Kevin Spencer) wrote:

> Shan <s_bentz at hamlet.uncg.edu> writes:
> >I recently read [somewhere] that the cerebellum perhaps plays a more 
> >integral role in language and "higher" cognitive functions

> It supports the work
> by Courchesne et al. that links cerebellar degeneration with autism.
> Does anyone have references on this topic?

See our Web page "http://nodulus.extern.ucsd.edu/".  It contains a
complete bibliography, with abstracts, which details our group's findings
of cerbellar maldevelopment in autism, and a deficit in the rapid shifting
of attention both in autism and in cases of acquired cerebellar lesions.

If you're interested in autism specifically, then also look up the autopsy
studies done by Margaret Bauman, which have shown a depletion of Purkinje
cells and cerebellar granule cells in autism.  There are many mechanisms
by which this depletion might occur; I find particularly interesting the
opioid excess theory, which has been investigated by Karl Reichelt and
Paul Shattock.  The developing cerebellum expresses opiate receptors, and
morphine stunts the arbourisation of Purkinje cells in vitro, and some
people with autism have been found to have high levels of opioid peptides
in the urine.  Other factors, including but not limited to genetic
predispositions, certainly play a role also.

On the cerebellum and cognition in general---not specifically on
autism---see the several reviews by Leiner, Leiner, and Dow, which date
back to 1986.  More recently, Julie Fiez and others at Washington
University have done some PET work showing the cerebellum to be active
while subjects are learning how to accomplish a novel task---she reported
on this at the symposium on the role of the cerebellum in cognition at
this past November's meeting of the Society for Neuroscience here in San

Matthew Belmonte  <mkb4 at Cornell.edu)  http://www.cnl.salk.edu/~matthew/
Autism and Brain Development Research Laboratory (Courchesne lab)
La Jolla, California, USA

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