Cerebellar-motor dysfunction in schizophrenia and psychosis-risk: the importance of regional cerebellar analysis approaches.
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Motor abnormalities in individuals with schizophrenia and those at-risk for psychosis are well documented. An accumulating body of work has also highlighted motor abnormalities related to cerebellar dysfunction in schizophrenia including eye-blink conditioning, timing, postural control, and motor learning. We have also recently found evidence for motor dysfunction in individuals at ultra high-risk for psychosis (1-3). This is particularly relevant as the cerebellum is thought to be central to the cognitive dysmetria model of schizophrenia, and these overt motor signs may point to more general cerebellar dysfunction in the etiology of psychotic disorders. While studies have provided evidence indicative of motor cerebellar dysfunction in at-risk populations and in schizophrenia, findings with respect to the cerebellum have been mixed. One factor potentially contributing to these mixed results is the whole-structure approach taken when investigating the cerebellum. In non-human primates, there are distinct closed-loop circuits between the cerebellum, thalamus, and brain with motor and non-motor cortical regions. Recent human neuroimaging has supported this finding and indicates that there is a cerebellar functional topography (4), and this information is being missed with whole-structure approaches. Here, we review cerebellar-motor dysfunction in individuals with schizophrenia and those at-risk for psychosis. We also discuss cerebellar abnormalities in psychosis, and the cerebellar functional topography. Because of the segregated functional regions of the cerebellum, we propose that it is important to look at the structure regionally in order to better understand its role in motor dysfunction in these populations. This is analogous to approaches taken with the basal ganglia, where each region is considered separately. Such an approach is necessary to better understand cerebellar pathophysiology on a macro-structural level with respect to the pathogenesis of psychosis.