The Role of the Posterior Cerebellum in Dysfunctional Social Sequencing

Frank Van Overwalle, Chris Baeken, Salvatore Campanella, Cleo L. Crunelle, Elien Heleven, Charles Kornreich, Maria Leggio, Xavier Noël, Marie Anne Vanderhasselt, Kris Baetens

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review


Recent advances in social neuroscience have highlighted the critical role of the cerebellum in social cognition, and especially the posterior cerebellum. Studies have supported the view that the posterior cerebellum builds internal action models of our social interactions to predict how other people’s actions will be executed and what our most likely responses are to these actions. This mechanism allows to better anticipate action sequences during social interactions in an automatic and intuitive way and to fine-tune these anticipations, making it easier to understand other’s social behaviors and mental states (e.g., beliefs, intentions, traits). In this paper, we argue that the central role of the posterior cerebellum in identifying and automatizing social action sequencing provides a fruitful starting point for investigating social dysfunctions in a variety of clinical pathologies, such as autism, obsessive–compulsive and bipolar disorder, depression, and addiction. Our key hypothesis is that dysfunctions of the posterior cerebellum lead to under- or overuse of inflexible social routines and lack of plasticity for learning new, more adaptive, social automatisms. We briefly review past research supporting this view and propose a program of research to test our hypothesis. This approach might alleviate a variety of mental problems of individuals who suffer from inflexible automatizations that stand in the way of adjustable and intuitive social behavior, by increasing posterior cerebellar plasticity using noninvasive neurostimulation or neuro-guided training programs.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Crus
  • Emotional mentalizing
  • Mental disorders
  • Non-invasive stimulation
  • Social mentalizing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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