The cerebellar predictions for social interactions: theory of mind abilities in patients with degenerative cerebellar atrophy

Clausi, Silvia, Olivito, Giusy, Lupo, Michela, Siciliano, Libera, Bozzali, Marco and Leggio, Maria (2019) The cerebellar predictions for social interactions: theory of mind abilities in patients with degenerative cerebellar atrophy. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 12. a510. ISSN 1662-5102

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Recent studies have focused on the role of the cerebellum in the social domain, including in Theory of Mind (ToM). ToM, or the "mentalizing" process, is the ability to attribute mental states, such as emotion, intentions and beliefs, to others to explain and predict their behavior. It is a fundamental aspect of social cognition and crucial for social interactions, together with more automatic mechanisms, such as emotion contagion. Social cognition requires complex interactions between limbic, associative areas and subcortical structures, including the cerebellum. It has been hypothesized that the typical cerebellar role in adaptive control and predictive coding could also be extended to social behavior. The present study aimed to investigate the social cognition abilities of patients with degenerative cerebellar atrophy to understand whether the cerebellum acts in specific ToM components playing a role as predictive structure. To this aim, an social cognition battery was administered to 27 patients with degenerative cerebellar pathology and 27 healthy controls. In addition, 3D T1-weighted and resting-state fMRI scans were collected to characterize the structural and functional changes in cerebello-cortical loops. The results evidenced that the patients were impaired in lower-level processes of immediate perception as well as in the more complex conceptual level of mentalization. Furthermore, they presented a pattern of GM reduction in cerebellar portions that are involved in the social domain such as crus I-II, lobule IX and lobule VIIIa. These areas showed decreased functional connectivity with projection cerebral areas involved in specific aspects of social cognition. These findings boost the idea that the cerebellar modulatory function on the cortical projection areas subtends the social cognition process at different levels. Particularly, regarding the lower-level processes, the cerebellum may act by implicitly matching the external information (i.e., expression of the eyes) with the respective internal representation to guarantee an immediate judgment about the mental state of others. Otherwise, at a more complex conceptual level, the cerebellum seems to be involved in the construction of internal models of mental processes during social interactions in which the prediction of sequential events plays a role, allowing us to anticipate the other person's behavior.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: SBA; VBM; cerebellum; cerebro-cerebellar networks; prediction; social interaction; theory of mind
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Neuroscience
Subjects: R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neurosciences. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry > RC0346 Neurology. Diseases of the nervous system Including speech disorders
Depositing User: Patricia Butler
Date Deposited: 03 May 2019 14:51
Last Modified: 01 Jul 2019 15:45

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