The ability to precisely time events is essential for both perception and action. There is evidence that the cerebellum is important for the neural representation of time in a variety of behaviors including time perception, the tapping of specific time intervals, and eye-blink conditioning. It has been difficult to assess the contribution of the cerebellum to timing during more dynamic motor behavior because the component movements themselves may be abnormal or any motor deficit may be due to an inability to combine the component movements into a complete action rather than timing per se. Here we investigated the performance of subjects with cerebellar disease in predictive motor timing using a task that involved mediated interception of a moving target, and we tested the effect of movement type (acceleration, deceleration, constant), speed (slow, medium, fast), and angle (0°, 15°and 30°) on performance. The subjects with cerebellar damage were significantly worse at interception than healthy controls even when we controlled for basic motor impairments such as response time. Our data suggest that subjects with damage to the cerebellum have a fundamental problem with predictive motor timing and indicate that the cerebellum plays an essential role in integrating incoming visual information with motor output when making predictions about upcoming actions. The findings demonstrate that the cerebellum may have properties that would facilitate the processing or storage of internal models of motor behavior.
- Motor system
- Spinocerebellar ataxia