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Evidence of a novel somatopic map in the human neocerebellum during complex actions.
The human neocerebellum has been hypothesized to contribute to many high-level cognitive processes including attention, language, and working memory. Support for these nonmotor hypotheses comes from evidence demonstrating structural and functional connectivity between the lateral cerebellum and cortical association areas as well as a lack of somatotopy in lobules VI and VII, a hallmark of motor representations in other areas of the cerebellum and cerebral cortex. We set out to test whether somatotopy exists in these lobules by using functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure cerebellar activity while participants produced simple or complex movements, using either fingers or toes. We observed a previously undiscovered somatotopic organization in neocerebellar lobules VI and VIIA that was most prominent when participants executed complex movements. In contrast, activation in the anterior lobe showed a similar somatotopic organization for both simple and complex movements. While the anterior somatotopic representation responded selectively during ipsilateral movements, the new cerebellar map responded during both ipsi- and contralateral movements. The presence of a bilateral, task-dependent somatotopic map in the neocerebellum emphasizes an important role for this region in the control of skilled actions.