When one is Enough: Impaired Multisensory Integration in Cerebellar Agenesis

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In the last two decades, an intriguing shift in the understanding of the cerebellum has led to consider the nonmotor functions of this structure. Although various aspects of perceptual and sensory processing have been linked to the cerebellar activity, whether the cerebellum is essential for binding information from different sensory modalities remains uninvestigated. Multisensory integration (MSI) appears very early in the ontogenesis and is critical in several perceptual, cognitive, and social domains. For the first time, we investigated MSI in a rare case of cerebellar agenesis without any other associated brain malformations. To this aim, we measured reaction times (RTs) after the presentation of visual, auditory, and audiovisual stimuli. A group of neurotypical age-matched individuals was used as controls. Although we observed the typical advantage of the auditory modality relative to the visual modality in our patient, a clear impairment in MSI was found. Beyond the obvious prudence necessary for inferring definitive conclusions from this single-case picture, this finding is of interest in the light of reduced MSI abilities reported in several neurodevelopmental and psychiatric disorders—such as autism, dyslexia, and schizophrenia—in which the cerebellum has been implicated.

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