The cerebellum is a fist-size structure tucked below the cerebral cortex—the part of the brain that we typically attribute to higher-order cognitive processes, including consciousness, language, and memory. Although the cerebellum was traditionally viewed as a center devoted solely to motor coordination, a growing body of research indicates that the structure is also involved in cognition, emotion, and other functions.
Although the cerebellum appears small from the outside, the structure’s many coral-like branches give it a surface area that is 80 percent of the surface area of the larger cerebral cortex.
Functional MRI studies suggest that the cerebellum can be divided into specific regions linked specifically to motor, cognitive, and emotion-related functions.
The specific mechanisms behind the cerebellum’s multitude of functions remains a mystery, but the orderly arrangement of the neurons within the structure indicate that it may carry out a single computation—or set of computations—that it applies across its many roles.
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