Cerebellar control of thalamocortical circuits for cognitive function: A review of pathways and a proposed mechanism

Detlef H. Heck, Mia B. Fox, Brittany Correia Chapman, Samuel S. McAfee, Yu Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

3 Scopus citations


There is general agreement that cerebrocerebellar interactions via cerebellothalamocortical pathways are essential for a cerebellar cognitive and motor functions. Cerebellothalamic projections were long believed target mainly the ventral lateral (VL) and part of the ventral anterior (VA) nuclei, which project to cortical motor and premotor areas. Here we review new insights from detailed tracing studies, which show that projections from the cerebellum to the thalamus are widespread and reach almost every thalamic subnucleus, including nuclei involved in cognitive functions. These new insights into cerebellothalamic pathways beyond the motor thalamus are consistent with the increasing evidence of cerebellar cognitive function. However, the function of cerebellothalamic pathways and how they are involved in the various motor and cognitive functions of the cerebellum is still unknown. We briefly review literature on the role of the thalamus in coordinating the coherence of neuronal oscillations in the neocortex. The coherence of oscillations, which measures the stability of the phase relationship between two oscillations of the same frequency, is considered an indicator of increased functional connectivity between two structures showing coherent oscillations. Through thalamocortical interactions coherence patterns dynamically create and dissolve functional cerebral cortical networks in a task dependent manner. Finally, we review evidence for an involvement of the cerebellum in coordinating coherence of oscillations between cerebral cortical structures. We conclude that cerebellothalamic pathways provide the necessary anatomical substrate for a proposed role of the cerebellum in coordinating neuronal communication between cerebral cortical areas by coordinating the coherence of oscillations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1126508
JournalFrontiers in Systems Neuroscience
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2023 Heck, Fox, Correia Chapman, McAfee and Liu.


  • cerebellothalamic tract
  • cerebellum
  • cerebrocerebellar communication
  • cognition
  • communication through coherence (CTC)
  • corticothalamic circuits


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