Increasing evidence suggests cerebellar involvement in procedural learning. To further analyze its role and to assess whether it has a lateralized influence, in the present study we used a repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation interference approach in a group of normal subjects performing a serial reaction time task.
We studied 36 normal volunteers: 13 subjects underwent repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on the left cerebellum and performed the task with the right (6 subjects) or left (7 subjects) hand; 10 subjects underwent repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation on the right cerebellum and performed the task with the hand ipsilateral (5 subjects) or contralateral (5 subjects) to the stimulation; another 13 subjects served as controls and were not submitted to repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation; 7 of them performed the task with the right hand and 6 with the left hand. The main results show that interference with the activity of the lateral cerebellum induces a significant decrease of procedural learning: Interference with the right cerebellar hemisphere activity induces a significant decrease in procedural learning regardless of the hand used to perform the serial reaction time task, whereas left cerebellar hemisphere activity seems more linked with procedural learning through the ipsilateral hand.
In conclusion, the present study shows for the first time that a transient interference with the functions of the cerebellar cortex results in an impairment of procedural learning in normal subjects and it provides new evidences for interhemispheric differences in the lateral cerebellum.