Dana Rusou

Dana Rusou, M.Sc.

Former student at Prof. Naama Friedmann's laboratory

Research title
The role of the cerebellum in language

Research project

The role of the cerebellum is commonly described as exclusively motoric. Some recent neuropsychological and imaging studies accumulate to suggest that the cerebellum also plays a role in language functions, but the reports are not consistent and require further research and a deeper analyze. The new findings about the role of the cerebellum in language imply that people with cerebellar damage, either acute or chronic, might experience language impairments.

The most common cerebellar ataxia, which causes cerebellar atrophy, is Machado Joseph disease (MJD). MJD is an autosomal dominantly inherent neurodegenerative disease, also termed Spinocerebellar Ataxia type 3 (SCA3). The reported symptoms of the disease are mostly motoric, which is consistent with the common belief that the role of the cerebellum is exclusively motoric, but in conflict with the rising belief that the cerebellum also contributes to language.

In my project, we systematically examine patients with MJD in order to characterize their language difficulties in various language domains including syntactic abilities, oral reading, naming, and phonological abilities.

The importance of this research is twofold; at the clinical level, the ability to predict the language impairments of MJD patients is essential for creating and tailoring the proper language treatment. Such treatment can aid MJD patients and other cerebellar patients with everyday difficulties they experience and that were not paid attention to so far. In addition, at a global level, this study will contribute to the currently limited knowledge about the role of the cerebellum in language functions.


Research Categories: Behavioral Neuroscience, Cellular/molecular neuroscience, System Neuroscience

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