The Contribution of Brainstem and Cerebellar Pathways to Auditory Recognition
Frontiers in Psychology
The cerebellum has been known to play an important role in motor functions for many years. More recently its role has been expanded to include a range of cognitive and sensory-motor processes, and substantial neuroimaging and clinical evidence now points to cerebellar involvement in most auditory processing tasks. In particular, an increase in the size of the cerebellum over recent human evolution has been attributed in part to the development of speech. Despite this, the auditory cognition
... rature has largely overlooked afferent auditory connections to the cerebellum that have been implicated in acoustically conditioned reflexes in animals, and could subserve speech and other auditory processing in humans. This review expands our understanding of auditory processing by incorporating cerebellar pathways into the anatomy and functions of the human auditory system. We reason that plasticity in the cerebellar pathways underpins implicit learning of spectrotemporal information necessary for sound and speech recognition. Once learnt, this information automatically recognizes incoming auditory signals and predicts likely subsequent information based on previous experience. Since sound recognition processes involving the brainstem and cerebellum initiate early in auditory processing, learnt information stored in cerebellar memory templates could then support a range of auditory processing functions such as streaming, habituation, the integration of auditory feature information such as pitch, and the recognition of vocal communications.