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Have you ever left your house, walked halfway to where you need to be, and then stopped to think “did I shut the front door?” This can leave you in turmoil; dissonance occurs. Do you return home and expend all that extra energy only to find your door is in fact shut? Or do you continue on your journey, in blind faith that you did the right thing-you shut the door- as you do every… single… time you leave your house. The reason for this phenomenon is the automaticity that occurs in the cerebellum within certain skills (such as closing a door). Therefore, when something is done enough times it is no longer attended to.
The cerebellum has been linked to non-motor learning. Previous research has focused on motor function in this area, but this is not the only component to the cerebellum. Therefore, the cerebellum needs to be looked at in more detail in terms of other functions.
The three cognitive disorders I have covered in past blogs (Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) & Dyslexia) all have been shown to have cerebellar abnormalities that could potentially disrupt the automatisation of skills-based learning. Within Dyslexia, cerebellar impairments have been correlated with 80% of cases of people with dyslexia. Certain studies in children who have had cerebellums removed due to brain tumours have shown poor executive function performance. This may explain why people with dyslexia can have further functional problems with organisation. A new insight in research connects linguistic function to the cerebellum. Specifically phonological processing is found more difficult.
It is shown that language can still be learned in patients who have cerebellar agenesis (absence of the cerebellum). The implications for this may be that the cerebellum is not involved in the linguistic process. However, it has also been shown that the cerebellum is a necessary tool in the normal population for automatizing language skills such as reading. If an individual has all the phonological knowledge stored in the brain then the cerebellum is no longer activated for this purpose. This suggests that it is possible to obtain language skills without the use of the cerebellum. In order to do this, it is necessary to find a way to encode phonological knowledge without the use of the cerebellum. Further research into this area could have a profound impact for people with cerebellar deficits/impairments (those with ADHD, ASD, Dyslexia/ lesions).
If there are effective learning interventions used to teach languages to somebody who has cerebellar agenesis, then it can be postulated that these would be the most effective techniques to teach those with specific cerebellar impairments.
To conclude, I think that new educational techniques can be enhanced for people with ADHD, ASD or Dyslexia. The method should focus on looking at how individuals with cerebellar agenesis learn best. If there is an effective method of learning for individuals without a cerebellum, then learning techniques exist that could bypass cerebellar function in this area and make it easier for people with development disorders to acquire language abilities. This would mean that people with learning disorders could utilise language at the same level as the typical population; but use different brain regions to achieve this goal.