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Learning objectives

After completing this study unit you will be able to:

  1. Explain the structure and function of the cerebellum.
  2. Name the layers of the cerebellar cortex and identify the structures they contain.

Browse atlas

The cerebellum is part of the central nervous system (CNS) and plays an important role in coordinating movements and maintaining balance. It consists of gray matter, which forms the cerebellar cortex and nuclei, and white matter, which includes the medulla and cerebellar peduncles.

Histologically, the cortex is characterized by three defined layers: the molecular layer, the Purkinje cell layer and the granular layer. The outer molecular layer contains few neurons, mainly stellate cells and basket cells, and is rich in parallel fibers and climbing fibers. In the middle Purkinje cell layer are the large, characteristic Purkinje cells, whose axonal processes represent the only efferents (inhibitory) of the cerebellar cortex. The inner granular layer is densely populated with small granule cells that pass on sensory information to the Purkinje cells.

Within the cerebellar medulla are the cerebellar nuclei, which include the dentate nucleus, the emboliform nucleus, the globose nucleus and the fastigial nucleus. These nuclei receive afferent signals from Purkinje cells and send efferent signals to various regions of the brain and spinal cord, ensuring the integrative function of the cerebellum in motor coordination.

Learn more about the histology of the cerebellum by viewing the image gallery below:

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