Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Be smart, use your cerebellum

playing the violin
Besides fine-tuning of movements it also helps thinking; it seems that we still underestimate this small but ingenious part of the brain.

Despite of being much smaller than the brain hemispheres, the cerebellum contains about half of all brain cells. Their main function is the coordination of movements in time and space, but new research has revealed its important role in attention, learning, memory and language. A number of diseases that lead to cognitive deficits, such as Down's, Williams or fragile X syndromes, dyslexia or ADHD also affect the cerebellum. In prenatal alcohol exposure and in extreme premature births, the cerebellum or parts of it grows unusually small. A disease that destroys parts of the cerebellum, ataxia teleangiectasia, reduces the verbal IQ and affects the ability of estimating a duration. These are just hints that the cerebellum may be more important for our intelligence than has been thought, but research is still in its beginning.

How to use the cerebellum

When deficits affect the intelligence, training of the cerebellum may boost it. Playing a music instrument is a typical cerebellum job; professional keybord players have a larger cerebellum than non-musicians. Singing, dancing, biking, golfing, juggling, climbing, playing ball games and many more activities that require motor skills are also fine.

The result may be rewarding, in addition to being fun. A number of studies have shown that playing a music instrument can make you smarter. Just one example: In a Canadian study, the IQ of schoolchildren has been increased after music lessons.

Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/jeanettewarner/394151645/

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