Right lateral cerebellum represents linguistic predictability

Elise Lesage, Peter Hansen, Rowland Miall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
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Mounting evidence indicates that posterolateral portions of the cerebellum (right Crus I/II) contribute to language processing, but the nature of this role remains unclear. Based on a well-supported theory of cerebellar motor function, which ascribes to the cerebellum a role in short-term prediction through internal modeling, we hypothesize that right cerebellar Crus I/II supports prediction of upcoming sentence content. We tested this hypothesis using event-related fMRI in human subjects by manipulating the predictability of written sentences. Our design controlled for motor planning and execution, as well as for linguistic features and working memory load; it also allowed separation of the prediction interval from the presentation of the final sentence item. In addition, three further fMRI tasks captured semantic, phonological and orthographic processing, to shed light on the nature of the information processed. As hypothesized, activity in right posterolateral cerebellum correlated with the predictability of the upcoming target word. This cerebellar region also responded to prediction error during the outcome of the trial. Further, this region was engaged in phonological, but not semantic or orthographic processing. This is the first imaging study to demonstrate a right cerebellar contribution in language comprehension independently from motor, cognitive and linguistic confounds. These results complement our work using other methodologies showing cerebellar engagement in linguistic prediction, and suggest that internal modeling of phonological representations aids language production and comprehension.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6231-6241
Number of pages11
JournalThe Journal of Neuroscience
Issue number26
Early online date25 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2017


  • phonological working memory
  • cerebellum
  • language
  • comprehension
  • prediction
  • non-motor
  • fMRI
  • cloze probability
  • prediction error


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