Cerebellar pathology is associated with impairments on a range of motor learning tasks including sequence learning. However, various lines of evidence are at odds with the idea that the cerebellum plays a central role in the associative processes underlying sequence learning. Behavioral studies indicate that sequence learning, at least with short periods of practice, involves the establishment of effector-independent, abstract spatial associations, a form of representation not associated with cerebellar function. Moreover, neuroimaging studies have failed to identify learning-related changes within the cerebellum. We hypothesize that the cerebellar contribution to sequence learning may be indirect, related to the maintenance of stimulus–response associations in working memory, rather than through processes directly involved in the formation of sequential predictions. Consistent with this hypothesis, individuals with cerebellar pathology were impaired in learning movement sequences when the task involved a demanding stimulus–response translation. When this translation process was eliminated by having the stimuli directly indicate the response location, the cerebellar ataxia group demonstrated normal sequence learning. This dissociation provides an important constraint on the functional domain of the cerebellum in motor learning.

You do not currently have access to this content.