Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The cerebellum has been implicated in higher cognitive functions including learning, memory, and attention as well as its well-known role in motor programming. Recent studies have suggested that the cerebellum plays a role in shifts of attention. We investigated the contribution of the cerebellum to visuospatial attentional ability in a trial-by-trial cueing task involving the covert orienting of spatial attention. We recorded event-related evoked potentials (ERPs) and reaction times (RTs) in patients with cerebellar degenerative disorders affecting mainly the lateral cerebellum and compared them to age-matched controls. The RT data demonstrated that both the cerebellar patients and control subjects responded to the valid cues faster than to the invalid cues for both the central and the peripheral cues. Consistent with the RT data, the ERP data showed a comparable generation of attention shift-related negativities during the cue-target interval for both the central and the peripheral cue experiments. The early negative component of the ERP to the target was also comparably modulated in both groups as a function of cue validity, suggesting efficient facilitation of sensory pathways by prior allocation of spatial attention to the cued place. Conversely, the late negative deflection preceding the imperative target stimulus and the late sustained positivity following target presentation, which reflect neural activities for response preparation and selection, were reduced in the cerebellar group. These findings suggest that the lateral cerebellum makes little contribution to visuospatial attention shift in either the voluntary or automatic modes and support a role of the lateral cerebellum in the neural system required for response preparation and selection.