Abstract: The cerebellum has long been appreciated for its vital role in regulating voluntary motor function and coordination. However, recent studies have highlighted this brain region’s involvement in reward-driven behavior and social interaction. Among their many findings, the discovery of the monosynaptic connection between deep cerebellar nuclei and the ventral tegmental area (VTA) by Carta et al. provides concrete evidence of the cerebellum’s regulation of motivation and reward processing circuitry – functions that previously had been solely attributed to the basal ganglia. In this way, the cerebellum-VTA connection must be further investigated for its contributions to the pathogenesis of dopaminergic diseases such as schizophrenia, autism spectrum disorders, and drug addiction. Furthermore, pharmacologic manipulation of these projections may represent a novel therapeutic strategy for treating these disorders.
Reference: Carta et al. (2019), Cerebellar modulation of the reward circuitry and social behavior. Science 363(6424): eaav0581. DOI: 10.1126/science.aav0581