Although cognitive impairment after cerebellar damage has been widely reported, the mechanisms of cerebro-cerebellar interactions are still a matter of debate. The cerebellum is involved in sequence detection and production in both motor and sensory domains, and sequencing has been proposed as the basic mechanism of cerebellar functioning. Furthermore, it has been suggested that knowledge of sequencing mechanisms may help to define cerebellar predictive control processes. In spite of its recognized importance, cerebellar sequencing has seldom been investigated in cognitive domains. Cognitive sequencing functions are often analysed by means of action/script elaboration. Lesion and activation studies have localized this function in frontal cortex and basal ganglia circuits. The present study is the first to report deficits in script sequencing after cerebellar damage. We employed a card-sequencing test, developed ad hoc, to evaluate the influence of the content to be sequenced. Stimuli consisted of sets of sentences that described actions with a precise logical and temporal sequence (Verbal Factor), sets of cartoon-like drawings that reproduced behavioural sequences (Behavioural Factor) or abstract figures (Spatial Factor). The influence of the lesion characteristics was analysed by grouping patients according to lesion-type (focal or atrophic) and lesion-side (right or left). The results indicated that patients with cerebellar damage present a cognitive sequencing impairment independently of lesion type or localization. A correlation was also shown between lesion side and characteristics of the material to be sequenced. Namely, patients with left lesions perform defectively only on script sequences based on pictorial material and patients with right lesions only on script sequences requiring verbal elaboration. The present data support the hypothesis that sequence processing is the cerebellar mode of operation also in the cognitive domain. In addition, the presence of right/left and pictorial/verbal differences is in agreement with the idea that cerebro-cerebellar interactions are organized in segregated cortico-cerebellar loops in which specificity is not related to the mode of functioning, but to the characteristics of the information processed.
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