The cerebellum gets social

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Science  18 Jan 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6424, pp. 229
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw2571

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The cerebellum contains the second main cortex of the brain and ∼50% of the neurons that constitute the brain. Although the cerebellum has long been thought to subserve motor learning and coordination, more recently it has been recognized to take part in cognitive and emotional processing. Additionally, evidence for cerebellar involvement in autism spectrum disorder (ASD), schizophrenia, and addiction is growing. On page 248 of this issue, Carta et al. (1) extend this theme and show that the cerebellum can activate the ventral tegmental area (VTA). The VTA is a mesencephalic nucleus giving rise to the mesocortical and mesolimbic fiber bundles that release dopamine to the prefrontal cortex and ventral striatum. Dopamine, in turn, plays a fundamental role in cognitive and emotional functioning by regulating motivation and reward. This places the cerebellum into the main circuits regulating brain states and social behavior.