Neuroscientists have discovered an unsuspected function of the cerebellum!
Memory does not only stop at remembering information that comes from our environment and our experiences. It also includes physiological and emotional responses related to experiences, that is emotional memory. These memories, whether positive or negative, are well preserved, because they help prevent dangerous situations from recurring.
According to previous studies, emotions act on the amygdala by activating it, facilitating information storage in different areas of the brain. However, scientists from the University of Basel have recently discovered that the cerebellum also participates in recording emotional experiences.
Professor Dominique de Quervain and Professor Andreas Papassotiropoulos from the University of Basel conducted a large-scale study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The activity of the cerebellum increased during the experiment
The cerebellum is a nerve center, communicating with the entire nervous system. It is located under the brain and behind the brainstem. Engine control manager, it ensures the coordination and synchronization of gestures, as well as the precision of movements. New research concerns its role in the storage of emotional experiences.
Researchers have shown 1,418 participants emotional and neutral images. They recorded their brain activity using magnetic resonance imaging.
The participants then underwent a memory test which revealed that they remembered positive and negative images better than neutral images. There was an increase in brain activity in areas of the brain that contribute to the storage of emotional images. However, the researchers also noticed increased activity in the cerebellum.
Findings could help in understanding psychiatric disorders
This experiment revealed that the cerebellum communicates more with different areas of the brain during the process of reinforced storage of emotional images. It communicates in particular with the cingulate gyrus, primordial in the perception and evaluation of feelings. It also sends signals to various regions of the brain, including the amygdala and hippocampus.
“These results indicate that the cerebellum is an integral part of a network that is responsible for enhancing the storage of emotional information. »
Professor Dominique de Quervain
There is no denying that improving emotional memory is essential for survival. However, it has flaws. Bad experiences can lead, for example, to recurring anxiety. These results of the study could therefore be used in the understanding of psychiatric disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder.