BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE - Long considered to have a role limited largely to motor-related functions, the cerebellum has recently been implicated as being involved in both perceptual and cognitive processes. Our purpose was to determine whether cerebellar activation occurs during cognitive tasks that differentially engage the component processes of word identification in reading.
METHODS - Forty-two neurologically normal adults underwent functional MR imaging of the cerebellum with a gradient-echo echo-planar technique while performing tasks designed to study the cognitive processing used in reading. A standard levels-of-processing paradigm was used. Participants were asked to determine whether pairs of words were written in the same case (orthographic processing), whether pairs of words and non-words rhymed with each other, respectively (phonologic assembly), and whether pairs of words belonged to the same category (semantic processing). Composite maps were generated from a general linear model based on a randomization of statistical parametric maps.
RESULTS - During phonologic assembly, cerebellar activation was observed in the middle and posterior aspects of the posterior superior fissure and adjacent simple lobule and semilunar lobule bilaterally and in posterior aspects of the simple lobule, superior semilunar lobule, and inferior semilunar lobule bilaterally. Semantic processing, however, resulted in activation in the deep nuclear region on the right and in the inferior vermis, in addition to posterior areas active in phonologic assembly, including the simple, superior semilunar, and inferior semilunar lobules.
CONCLUSION - The cerebellum is engaged during reading and differentially activates in response to phonologic and semantic tasks. These results indicate that the cerebellum contributes to the cognitive processes integral to reading.