In an earlier entry I speculated on the significance of the cerebellum. I’ve been doing a little searching on the cerebellum and dementia. The two references I’ve picked up so far (Pickutab et al., 1999 and Rapoport et al., 2000). Both seem to support the idea that the cerebellum is not immediately affected by Alzheimers.
Pickutab and co-workers are interested in methodological issues, particularly in the use of the cerebellum of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s during certain types of brain scan. The methodological assumption is that the cerebellum is unaffected by the disease and can therefore be used as a reference point when scanning the rest of their brains. The researchers compared scans of cerebella of patients with and without Alzheimer’s disease. The results showed that, with certain reservations, the methodological assumption stands.
The paper by Rapoport and colleagues is more wide ranging. 2 key findings emerge from their review. Firstly, the cerebellum is not affected by Alzheimer’s disease until in its later stages. This agrees with Pickutab’s work and together they help to underpin some of the anecdotal observations about object handling with older people. Secondly, Rapoport tentatively suggest that there may be indications that the cerebellum may be involved in the co-ordination of emotion and cognition in a way that is analogous to its role co-ordinating motor function. If this is the case then it would begin to explain the therapeutic value of object handling. The paper was published in 2000, so the next step will be to do citation search.
Pickutab, B.A. et al. (1999) ‘Validation of the cerebellum as a reference region for SPECT quantification in patients suffering from dementia of the Alzheimer type’ in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, 90, 2, 103-112
Rapoport, M., van Reekum, R. & Mayberg, H. (2000) ‘The Role of the Cerebellum in Cognition and Behaviour: A Selective Review’ in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 12, 193–198