Cerebellar involvement in motor but not sensory adaptation

Hannah J. Block, Amy J. Bastian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Predictable sensorimotor perturbations can lead to cerebellum-dependent adaptation-i.e., recalibration of the relationship between sensory input and motor output. Here we asked if the cerebellum is also needed to recalibrate the relationship between two sensory modalities, vision and proprioception. We studied how people with and without cerebellar damage use visual and proprioceptive signals to estimate their hand's position when the sensory estimates disagree. Theoretically, the brain may resolve the discrepancy by recalibrating the relationship between estimates (sensory realignment). Alternatively, the misalignment may be dealt with by relying less on one sensory estimate and more on the other (a weighting strategy). To address this question, we studied subjects with cerebellar damage and healthy controls as they performed a series of tasks. The first was a prism adaptation task that involves motor adaptation to compensate for a visual perturbation and is known to require the cerebellum. As expected, people with cerebellar damage were impaired relative to controls. The same subjects then performed two experiments in which they reached to visual and proprioceptive targets while a visuoproprioceptive misalignment was gradually imposed. Surprisingly, cerebellar patients performed as well as controls when the task invoked only sensory realignment, but were impaired relative to controls when motor adaptation was also possible. Additionally, individuals with cerebellar damage were able to use a weighting strategy similarly to controls. These results demonstrate that, unlike motor adaptation, sensory realignment and weighting are not cerebellum-dependent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1766-1775
Number of pages10
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 2012


  • Cerebellum
  • Motor adaptation
  • Reaching
  • Sensorimotor integration
  • Sensory adaptation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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