The Role of the Posterior Cerebellum in Dysfunctional Social Sequencing

Frank Van Overwalle, Chris Baeken, Salvatore Campanella, Cleo L Crunelle, Elien Heleven, Charles Kornreich, Maria Leggio, Xavier Noël, Marie-Anne Vanderhasselt, Kris Baetens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
165 Downloads (Pure)


Recent advances in social neuroscience have highlighted the critical role of the cerebellum in social cognition, and especially the posterior cerebellum. Studies have supported the view that the posterior cerebellum builds internal action models of our social interactions to predict how other people's actions will be executed and what our most likely responses are to these actions. This mechanism allows to better anticipate action sequences during social interactions in an automatic and intuitive way and to fine-tune these anticipations, making it easier to understand other's social behaviors and mental states (e.g., beliefs, intentions, traits). In this paper, we argue that the central role of the posterior cerebellum in identifying and automatizing social action sequencing provides a fruitful starting point for investigating social dysfunctions in a variety of clinical pathologies, such as autism, obsessive-compulsive and bipolar disorder, depression, and addiction. Our key hypothesis is that dysfunctions of the posterior cerebellum lead to under- or overuse of inflexible social routines and lack of plasticity for learning new, more adaptive, social automatisms. We briefly review past research supporting this view and propose a program of research to test our hypothesis. This approach might alleviate a variety of mental problems of individuals who suffer from inflexible automatizations that stand in the way of adjustable and intuitive social behavior, by increasing posterior cerebellar plasticity using noninvasive neurostimulation or neuro-guided training programs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1123-1134
Number of pages12
JournalThe Cerebellum
Issue number6
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been supported by an SRP57 grant by the Vrije Universiteit Brussel to Frank Van Overwalle and Chris Baeken. There is no other funding source.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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