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March 28, 2013 / Mark Kerrigan

The Cerebellum and Its (Dys)Function


cerebellum11

Courtesy of Centre for Neuro Skills

There cerebellum, located at the base of the skull, controls things like coordination and memory for reflex motor actions. There are several issues which can result as damage to this part of the brain.

First, coordination of fine motor skills. Like picking up small objects such as push pins or plastic pegs would fall under this category. Also tapping the index finger can be affected when the cerebellum is damaged.

The ability to walk is another area affected by damage to the cerebellum. For me, I had to wait six weeks after my TBI before I was able to walk. And even now, my left foot acts like it doesn’t know where it’s going when I pick it up and begin to move it.

Third, the inability to reach out and grasp objects is often a result of having a damaged cerebellum. This would include things like reaching for the salt at a dinner table, or a cup of coffee outside the immediate personal space (more than 18 inches).

Related not being able to reach out and grab items is the issue of tremors, so when the survivor does happen to grab onto an object, his had or arm shakes rather violently so that drinking coffee is almost out of the question. Also associated with tremors is dizziness (vertigo), which can be seen for some TBI survivors.

The fifth issue affected is the survivor’s speech being slurred. Most of us who have had experience with TBI–either our own or someone else’s–know the frustration from not being able to understand or be understood can be incredibly disheartening. Often I have met survivors who don’t like to carry on a conversation because they know the difficulty others have with understanding them. On the other hand, the survivor may have what is called “Scanning Speech,” or speech with frequent and unnatural pauses. For example the sentence “Walking is good exercise” might be pronounced as “Walk (pause) ing is good ex (pause) er (pause) cise”.

The sixth and final sign of a damaged cerebellum is the inability to make rapid or quick movements. This is indicated by the inability to perform well doing a repetitive task or job. Like tagging clothes at a dry cleaners or connecting part A to part B for eight hours a day. Although my IQ is above average, I can’t seem to do repetitive tasks with any success at a job. I’m always too slow–which frustrates me and my employer.

Damage can occur to the cerebellum in spite of its location, and can result in things like a staggering gait, altered speech and movements in addition to the inability to perform quick movements.

Keep getting better, and I’ll talk to you soon.

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2 Comments

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  1. Alyson Vega / Apr 4 2013 12:40 pm

    Hi Mark,
    I can’t believe it has taken me all this time to come across your blog. (Of course, with a brain injury I get to enjoy many “first times” and surprises.) I just wanted to draw your attention to another problem with damage to the cerebellum. Cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome has many of the same symptoms as frontal lobe damage. You can read about it on my blog:

    T.B.I. To Be Invisible

    http://countdown2brainsurgery.blogspot.com/2012/11/cerebellar-cognitive-affective-syndrome.html

    I will add a link to your blog and I would be honored if you want to add mine.

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