Several studies indicate that the cerebellum might play a role in experiencing and/or controlling emphatic emotions, but it remains to be determined whether there is a distinction between positive and negative emotions, and, if so, which specific parts of the cerebellum are involved in these types of emotions. Here, we visualized activations of the cerebellum and extracerebellar regions using high-field fMRI, while we asked participants to observe and imitate images with pictures of human faces expressing different emotional states or with moving geometric shapes as control. The state of the emotions could be positive (happiness and surprise), negative (anger and disgust), or neutral. The positive emotional faces only evoked mild activations of crus 2 in the cerebellum, whereas the negative emotional faces evoked prominent activations in lobules VI and VIIa in its hemispheres and lobules VIII and IX in the vermis. The cerebellar activations associated with negative emotions occurred concomitantly with activations of mirror neuron domains such as the insula and amygdala. These data suggest that the potential role of the cerebellum in control of emotions may be particularly relevant for goal-directed behavior that is required for observing and reacting to another person's (negative) expressions.

, , , ,,
The Cerebellum
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Schraa-Tam, C., Rietdijk, W., Verbeke, W., Dietvorst, R., van den Berg, W., Bagozzi, R., & de Zeeuw, C. (2012). fMRI Activities in the Emotional Cerebellum: A Preference for Negative Stimuli and Goal-Directed Behavior. The Cerebellum, 11(1), 233–245. doi:10.1007/s12311-011-0301-2