What is it about?

Information acquired via implicit contextual learning is an important aspect of our daily life, facilitating navigation and action in the familiar environment. The invariance of the environment forms a visual context, which is implicitly learned and subsequently guides attention for the searched target. In that way, the searched item can be spotted easier if one has prior exposure to the same context. Evidence shows that a neural network, rather than a single cerebral structure underlies that kind of learning. We wanted to know if the cerebellum is also the component of such a network, comparing a group of patients with slowly progressive cerebellar disease with healthy control subjects.

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Why is it important?

The cerebellum has long been considered as primarily a motor structure, but this notion has gradually been changing since the turn of the century and is being replaced with a newer one, which also attributes cognitive and emotional functions to the cerebellum. Schmahmann, a researcher from Harvard University, proposed the term “cerebellar cognitive-affective syndrome” (CCAS) for its clinical presentation. However, CCAS does not include implicit learning deficits. Although it was shown before that the cerebellum has a role in discrete types of implicit learning, here we show for the first time that it is part of the neural network for implicit contextual learning.

Perspectives

The creation of this article was made possible by my invaluable co-author, who supported and encouraged me to carry out such innovative work. I hope it gives readers a new perspective on developing new research topics.

Cigdem Ulasoglu-Yildiz
Hulusi Behcet Life Sciences Research Laboratory, Neuroscience Unit, Istanbul University, 34093, Istanbul, Turkey.

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This page is a summary of: Implicit contextual learning in spinocerebellar ataxia., Neuropsychology, December 2019, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/neu0000614.
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