Higher-level language deficits resulting from left primary cerebellar lesions

Marion Cook, Bruce E. Murdoch, Louise Cahill, Brooke M. Whelan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Contemporary neuropsychological studies suggest that cerebellar lesions may impact upon higher-level cognitive functioning via mechanisms of crossed cerebello-cerebral diaschisis. Accordingly, right cerebellar lesions have been previously associated with linguistic impairments such as reduced word fluency and agrammatic output. Recently, however, neuroimaging investigations have also identified ipsilateral cerebral hypoperfusion as a consequence of cerebellar lesions, implicating a potential role for the left cerebellum in the mediation of language processes. Aims: The purpose of this research was to investigate the effects of left cerebellar lesions of vascular origin, on general as well as high-level language skills. Methods & Procedures: Linguistic profiles were compiled for five individuals with left primary cerebellar lesions utilising a comprehensive language test battery. Individual scores relevant to each subtest were compared to a group of non-neurologically impaired controls. The criterion for anomalous performance was established as ≥ 1.5 SD below the mean of the control group. Outcomes & Results: The findings of this research suggest that higher-level language deficits may result from left primary cerebellar lesions. All participants demonstrated deficits on measures of word fluency, sentence construction within a set context, producing word definitions, and producing multiple definitions for the same word. Deficits were also noted for several participants on measures of understanding figurative language, forming word associations, identifying and correcting semantic absurdities, and producing synonyms and antonyms. Conclusions: The results presented challenge the notion of a lateralised linguistic cerebellum, supporting a potential role for the left as well as right cerebellar hemispheres in the regulation of language processes, presumably via cerebellar-basal ganglia/thalamo-cortical pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)771-784
Number of pages14
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2004
Externally publishedYes


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