Many people believe that the cerebellum, the small brain, is the one that initiates and controls the voluntary movements. Even though the cerebellum is involves in a somewhat large percentage in controlling the movement of the human body, it doesn’t initiate the movement per se, as it rather controls coordination, accuracy and the sense of timing. This is why any damage in the area doesn’t lead to a permanent paralysis, but leads instead to asthenia and to problems in maintaining equilibrium, posture and so on.
Basically, the main functions of the small brain are:
- maintains the balance and the straight posture with the help of the vestibular receptors that tell the brain to adjust the position in order to maintain the equilibrium. In terms of anatomy, the vestibulocerebellum is connected to the vestibule in the ear, fact that ensures practically the good balance of the human body.
- coordinates the voluntary movements, especially the ones that need accuracy;
- plays a major role in motor learning, or better said, plays a major role in learning functional movements such as running, throwing a ball to a basket or hitting a baseball ball with a bat. Physiologically speaking, the part of the cerebellum involved mostly in the motor learning processes is the spinocerebellum, that is actually the oldest part of the small brain.
- is involved, or at least used to be, in several cognitive functions;
Can we move without the cerebellum?
Yes, we can. If for some reason the small brain needs to be surgically removed, the human body will suffer in the first phase a severe form of asthenia in all the processes that the cerebellum is involved usually; however, after several months, the function of the small brain will be taken over by the cerebrum, who will slowly learn to offer all the above described functions.