Cerebellar BOLD signal during the acquisition of a new lexicon predicts its early consolidation

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Cerebellar contributions to language are presently poorly understood, but it has been argued that the cerebellar role in motor learning can be extended to learning in cognitive and linguistic domains. Here, we used fMRI to investigate whether the cerebellum is recruited in mapping novel words onto existing semantic concepts. On separate days, participants performed a Basque vocabulary learning task and a control English synonym task in the MRI scanner. Learning-related BOLD activity was found in left inferior frontal gyrus, bilateral insula, pre-SMA, left superior parietal cortex, right caudate, the right cerebellar vermis and right cerebellar Crus II. The extent to which the cerebellar regions, but not the cerebral areas, were recruited during learning correlated positively with participants’ off-line improvement in performance after the learning task. These data provide evidence for a cerebellar role in lexical learning, and suggest that the right cerebellum may contribute toward consolidation of lexico-semantic associations in the language network.

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