The cerebellum is the key in the automation of literacy skills like reading and writing.
The cerebellum is a large brain mass that is located at the very base of the brain. In us, humans , it accounts for 10 – 15% of brain weight, 40% of the brain’s surface area and holds 50% of the brain’s neurons (nerve cells).
The main role of this section of the brain, as far as we know, is to help us acquire new skills and once acquired, to make them automatic. An important example of this process of acquisition and automation is seen in the way the cerebellum contributes to the fluent articulation of speech.
Long-standing tradition had it that the cerebellum played a part only in motor skills. But in recent times, it has become clear that the cerebellum is also involved in other tasks, such as the automation of motor and cognitive skills. Below you find a list of research studies concerning the important role of the cerebellum in both motor and perceptual timing.
The cerebellum receives and processes information from the magnocells, large cells located in the neural (nerve) visual pathways of the brain. This information is crucial for the control of eye movements during reading. It is this information that prevents the gaze of our eyes from slipping as we fixate on words. The cerebellum should be seen as a key partner in causing literacy skills like reading and writing to become automatic.
The cerebellum acts as the master clock for dictating the timing aspects of motion. Studies have shown that as we learn, the cerebellum plays an important role in integrating the sensori-motor timing of complex movements. As we scan a page of text, our eyes move in smooth pursuit, yet linger on words for brief periods of time. The cerebellum guides the timing of these eye movements.
The cerebellum acts as the master clock for dictating the timing aspects of motion.
Visual Magnocellular Flow
In order for the cerebellum to lend fluid timing to our body and eye movements, it must receive neural (nerve) motion information by way of the visual magnocellular flow. Magnocells (large cells) line the visual neural (nerve) pathways of the brain. When the magnocells react to fast-moving or quick-flickering light stimuli, they channel and signal motion information to the cerebellum.
Cells in the cerebellum then send timing and motor coordination information to the oculomotor nerve cells involved with eye movement. Through the muscles attached to both eyes, the oculomotor neurons can use this information to finally control our involuntary, saccadic, eye movements.
The accurate execution and timing of body and eye movements help us to maintain a stable visual representation of what we see, WHERE objects are located, and HOW we should guide our limbs and eye movements because of them.
In this context, we can think of reading as a motion-awareness task. As we read, our eyes are always on the move. The words can only be identified during quick eye ‘fixations’ lasting only a few hundred milliseconds.
In this context, we can think of reading as a motion-awareness task.
BrightStar’s technology stimulates the magnocells so that they can send neural motion information to the cerebellum. Thereby the cerebellum can carry out the management of the temporal aspects of motion in an optimal fashion. The cerebellum receives this information to inform the eyes regarding the precise timing, coordination, and execution of the eye movements.
In this way the cerebellum guides the limbs and eyes, which both are so important for reading and writing. All BrightStar programs improve these skills, leading to a better quality of life for those learning to read and write.
BrightStar’s computer technology helps to stimulate the magnocells to send neural visual-motion information to the cerebellum, thereby optimizing the temporal aspects of motion.
Sources for this article & quotes
- The Cerebellum participates in mental activity: tomographic measurements of regional cerebral blood flow (1990), Decety, J. et al., Brain Research, vol. 535, pp. 313-317
- The Cerebellum’s Role in Reading: A Functional MR Imaging Study (1999), Fulbright, R. et al., AJNR Am J Neuroradiol, vol. 20, pp. 1925-1930
- A New Physiological concept on cerebellum (1990), Ito, M., Rev. Neurol. (Paris), vol. 146, No. 10, pp. 564-569
- Timing Functions of the Cerebellum (2007), Ivry, R. et al., Journal of cognitive Neuroscience, vol. 1, No 2, pp 136-152
- Cerebellar Involvement in the Explicit Representation of Temporal Information (1993), Ivry, R., Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, vol. 682, pp. 214-230
- The Cerebellum and Event Timing (2002), Ivry, R. et al., Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 978, pp. 302-317
- The Neural representation of time (2004), Ivry, R., Current Opinion in Neurobiology, vol. 14, pp. 225-232
- Localization of a cerebellar timing process using PET (1995), Jueptner, M. et al., Neurology, vol. 45, pp. 1540-1545
- Cerebellum and Speech Perception: A Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Study (2002), Mathiak, K. et al., Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, vol. 14, No. 6, pp. 902-912
- Cerebellar Contributions to Motor Timing: A PET Study of Auditory and Visual Rhythm Reproduction (1998), Penhune, V. et al., Journal of Cognitive Neurscience, vol. 10, No. 6, pp. 752-765
- Role of the Cerebellum in Visual Guidance of Movement (1992), Stein, J. et al., Physiological Reviews, vol. 72, No. 4, pp. 967-1017
- The Cerebellum and the adaptive coordination of movement (1992), Thach, W. et al., Annu. Rev. Neurosci., vol. 15, pp. 403-42
- Internal models in the cerebellum (1998), Wolpert, D. et al., Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol. 2, No. 9, pp. 338-347
- Impaired Performance of Children with Dyslexia on a Range of Cerebellar Tasks (1996), Fawcett, A. et al., Annals of Dyslexia, vol. 46, pp. 259-283
- Performance of Dyslexic Children on Cerebellar and Cognitive Tests (1999), Fawcett, A. et al., Journal of Motor Behavior, vol. 31, No. 1, pp. 68-78
- The cerebellum, timing, and language: Implications for the study of Dyslexia (2001), Ivry, R. et al., Time, Fluency, and Developmental Dyslexia, pp. 189-211, Timonium, MD: York Press
- Developmental dyslexia: the cerebellar deficit hypothesis (2001), Nicolson, R. et al., Trends in Neurosciences, vol. 24, No. 9, pp. 508-511
- Time estimation deficits in developmental dyslexia: evidence of cerebellar involvement (1995), Nicolson, R. et al., Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B, vol. 259, pp. 43-47