Cerebellum 2015 Feb;14(1):50-8
Ataxia Unit, Cognitive Behavioral Neurology Unit, Laboratory for Neuroanatomy and Cerebellar Neurobiology, Department of Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Suite 340, Charles River Plaza South, 175 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA, 02114, USA.
The cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome (CCAS) includes disruption of linguistic processing such as verbal fluency, verbal working memory, grammar, and speech perception. We set out to examine linguistic capabilities in patients with cerebellar lesions to determine which domains are spared and which impaired and to evaluate the underlying cognitive structure of these deficits. Forty-four patients with cerebellar disease were compared to 40 healthy controls on the Oral Sentence Production Test (OSPT) which assesses production of sentences with correct syntactic structure and semantic quality. Twenty-five of these cerebellar patients and 25 controls received the Test of Language Competence-Expanded (TLC-E) that assesses metalinguistic ability. The OSPT failed to reveal differences between patients and controls. In contrast, all cerebellar patients were impaired on each of the four TLC-E subtests. Differences between isolated cerebellar and complex cerebrocerebellar patients were nonsignificant. These results confirm and extend prior observations of the TLC-E in patients with cerebellar lesions and suggest three separate but related language impairments following cerebellar dysfunction: (1) disruption in automatic adjustment of intact grammatical and semantic abilities to a linguistic context in sentence production, (2) disruption in automatic adjustment to a linguistic context in sentence interpretation, and (3) disruption of cognitive processes essential for linguistic skills, such as analysis and sequential logical reasoning. These findings are consistent with the unifying framework of the universal cerebellar transform and the dysmetria of thought theory and provide new insights into the nature of the cognitive impairments in patients with the CCAS.