- What is Cerebellum?
- Cerebellum Function
- Calibration of movement
- Maintaining Equilibrium
- Muscle Control
- Cerebellum Location
- Cerebellum Anatomy
- Cerebellum Tumor
What is Cerebellum?
The cerebellum is another important structure found within the brain. This originally comes from a Latin word which when translated would mean “little brain”. This organ is primarily responsible for attuning movements but also plays an important role in the learning process, control of muscle tone and as well as the initiation of response to pleasure and fear. The true function the cerebellum has been disputed for several years. However, recently the motor functions of the cerebellum have been clearly established. Certainly, a number of people may not really be that acquainted with the cerebellum and its functions in the human body. You will know something more about this unique part of the brain in the latter paragraphs.
The little brain or the cerebellum is primarily responsible for the motor faculties of the body. Though the cerebellum’s function is motor by nature, this also influences aspects like cognition and as well as helps initiate responses to fear and pleasure. Nevertheless, the cerebellum is not entirely responsible for initiating movement. Rather, its work is more on the coordination of different movements, specifically in terms of precision, accuracy and timing. The cerebellum is specifically involved in the regulation of the fine motor activities of the body via the inputs coming from the brain and the spinal cord. Thence, whenever there’s an assault to the cerebellum, an individual does not necessarily become paralyzed but would rather suffer from loss of equilibrium or balance, faulty posture and some difficulty performing motor functions.
Calibration of movement
Way then, physiologists are hugely convinced that the main function of the cerebellum is motor-related, not until the early 90s wherein the true nature and functions of the cerebellum have been slowly unraveled. Through conducting several experiments, one after another, it was finally found out that the essential function of the cerebellum is to calibrate or regulate the movement being executed and not to initiate the movement itself. Deciding the types of motion to execute is not also within the scope of the cerebellum. To determine whether or not your cerebellum is working properly, you may try to do this. Touch an object on the opposite arm. If you are able to do this in a straightforward manner and without any erratic motions, then your cerebellum is properly working. Otherwise, something must have been wrong with your cerebellum.
Another important function of the cerebellum is the facilitation of learning. For years, scientists have been bickering as to whether or not learning occurs within the cerebellum or this is merely just a passageway through which signals and impulses traverse. Nevertheless, the role of the cerebellum in terms of the learning process has been established in the optimal control theory.
Another crucial function of the cerebellum is maintaining balance or equilibrium. Without the cerebellum, we could have been staggering due to the lack of balance. The cerebellum may be considered responsible for maintaining our balance owing to the fact that this has a connection with the vestibular branch which is among the centers for maintaining balance and posture.
The cerebellum is also responsible for keeping the right muscle tone. Can you imagine living without your cerebellum? Well, we could be just like a blob of jelly due to lack of muscle tonicity. Thus, another important function of the cerebellum is maintaining the proper posture because of its control over the different muscles of the body.
Not everyone else knows the exact location of the cerebellum because this organ is not given that much of an attention as the other parts of the brain. The cerebellum is actually considered to be part of the hindbrain. This is huddled inferior to the brain but superior to the brain stem. Anterior to the cerebellum is the pons.
The cerebellum is about 10% of the brain’s total volume. As compared to other parts or structures found within the brain, the cerebellum considerably has more neurons. It is also composed of specialized types of neurons called Purkinje fibers (pronounced as Poor-kin-yay which is named after a Czech physiologist) and granule cells. This is being divided into hemispheres via a midline termed as the vermis. The cerebellum is separated from the cerebrum by the stratified dura mater and signals travelling to and fro the cerebellum have to pass through the pons. This structure is also considered to be part of the metencephalon and the former being superior to the hindbrain which anatomists would refer to as the rhombencephalon. The cerebellum tends to assume somewhat a peculiar appearance especially in terms of its surface. This is due to the fact that the cerebellum is also made up of folded layers of gray matter which most of the time would look like that of an accordion. It has been speculated that when this fold is being stretched this would be about a meter long and five inches wide. Just beneath the grey matter is the white matter and embedded in the latter are the four deep cerebellar nuclei which are also made up of grey matter. The white matter is also known as the “tree of life” (arbor vitae) because of its tree-like appearance especially when viewed in its cross-section.
The cerebellum is also being divided into three lobes which are the anterior, posterior and the flocculonodular lobes which eventually divide the cerebellum into rostral to caudal. In humans, the equivalent is from top to bottom. Each of these lobes performs a specific function which will be discussed further in the next few paragraphs.
The cerebrum is considered to be the second largest part of the brain. Just like the rest of the organs of the body, the cerebrum is also being affected by certain types of tumor. There can be several types of tumor that may grow within the cerebellum. These tumors are classified as either primary or secondary. Primary tumors are those tumors which originally come from the cerebellum. On the other hand, secondary tumors have just metastasized to the cerebellum but were from other parts of the body such as the colon, lungs, esophagus and many others. The common type of tumor which is believed to have originated from within the cerebellum are medulloblastomas. This accounts for about 20 per cent of the total tumors found within the brains of both children and adults. Another type of tumor that commonly develops in the cerebellum is the cerebellar astrocytoma which is oftentimes comprised of either benign or malignant cells. Other tumors found in the cerebellum may have directly come from the breast, colon, kidney and the skin.
Tumor arising from the cerebellum would usually trigger symptoms that are related to movement. There may also be other clusters of symptoms that may be present along with a cerebellar tumor which commonly include the following:
Nausea and Vomiting with Headaches
Since the presence of tumor within the cerebellum would lead to obstruction in the normal flow of cerebral fluid, this would trigger bouts of headache. According to the American Brain Tumor Association, the characteristic of the headache felt by those with cerebellar tumor is that it is more prominent in the morning, usually upon rousing. Nausea and vomiting will also be noted especially when one tries to move. Those who used to suffer from this condition have also noted severe headache as the tumor grows further.
Another problem faced by those who have cerebellar tumor is trouble walking. You would often find them clumsily walking or staggering. This is primarily because the cerebellum is the one responsible for maintaining balance.
Cranial Nerve Compression and Damage
The growing tumor in the cerebellum also causes cranial nerve compression. The physical manifestations would oftentimes depend on the cranial nerve affected. The common symptoms include weakness, hearing and visual problems, which eventually leads to the loss of function of these organs, and some disturbances on the taste of smell.
Tumor development within the cerebellum can be due to a myriad of symptoms. There can be a lot of possible causes of tumor formation in the cerebellum. Just like the usual causes, this may probably be due to exposure to certain toxic chemicals, lifestyle or even heredity. However, just like most cancers are, the etiology is unknown.
Treatment is possible in cases of cerebellar tumor formation for the healthy cells can be unharmed during the course of treatment. The common treatment for cerebellar tumor usually includes radiation and chemotherapy. As with radiation, higher doses ideally required and this is concentrated on the head so as to kill cancerous cells. Chemotherapy may also be as effective in dealing with cerebellar tumors.
Surgical management may also be indicated for those who suffer from cerebellar tumor. Often, the preferred way of dealing cerebellar tumor is by removing it because its removal poses less or even no harm to the surrounding structures. In fact, this would serve as a measure that would save nearby structures from getting damaged.