The cerebellum and the automatization of language

Francys Subiaul, Catherine L. Harris, Terrace W. Deacon Boston University

Correspondence Information: Francys Subiaul, 140 Bay State Road, Boston MA 02215


A dual task paradigm will be used to probe the role of the cerebellum in automatizing language processing for normal adults. Baseline data will be collected for college students' performance on a cerebellar task (tracking a projectile), on a prefrontal motor task (Go/no go), and on two language tasks. One language task is a tongue twister task, which requires motor dexterity and thus is consistent with the classically defined motor functions of the cerebellum. To examine whether the cerebellum plays a more purely linguistic role, our second language task is a sentence rearrangement task, in which participants must rapidly rearrange the order of words and phrases according to a given rule.

If cerebellar processing resources are required for the sentence rearrangement task, then we expect greater degradation in performance on this task when combined with the projectile tracking task than when combined with the prefrontal motor task (the Go/No Go task). Including the tongue twister task provides us with a standard against which to compare the performance decrement (if any) found with the sentence rearrangement task. Evidence that the cerebellum plays a role in sentence automatization would help explain the relative preservation of language production in Williams' syndrome, given that cerebellar (and frontal) areas are relatively intact in this syndrome compared to other brain areas.