Consensus paper: Decoding the Contributions of the Cerebellum as a Time Machine. From Neurons to Clinical Applications

Martin Bareš, Richard Apps, Laura Avanzino, Assaf Breska, Egidio D’Angelo, Pavel Filip, Marcus Gerwig, Richard B. Ivry, Charlotte L. Lawrenson, Elan D. Louis, Nicholas A. Lusk, Mario Manto, Warren H. Meck, Hiroshi Mitoma, Elijah A. Petter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


Time perception is an essential element of conscious and subconscious experience, coordinating our perception and interaction with the surrounding environment. In recent years, major technological advances in the field of neuroscience have helped foster new insights into the processing of temporal information, including extending our knowledge of the role of the cerebellum as one of the key nodes in the brain for this function. This consensus paper provides a state-of-the-art picture from the experts in the field of the cerebellar research on a variety of crucial issues related to temporal processing, drawing on recent anatomical, neurophysiological, behavioral, and clinical research. The cerebellar granular layer appears especially well-suited for timing operations required to confer millisecond precision for cerebellar computations. This may be most evident in the manner the cerebellum controls the duration of the timing of agonist-antagonist EMG bursts associated with fast goal-directed voluntary movements. In concert with adaptive processes, interactions within the cerebellar cortex are sufficient to support sub-second timing. However, supra-second timing seems to require cortical and basal ganglia networks, perhaps operating in concert with cerebellum. Additionally, sensory information such as an unexpected stimulus can be forwarded to the cerebellum via the climbing fiber system, providing a temporally constrained mechanism to adjust ongoing behavior and modify future processing. Patients with cerebellar disorders exhibit impairments on a range of tasks that require precise timing, and recent evidence suggest that timing problems observed in other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, and dystonia may reflect disrupted interactions between the basal ganglia and cerebellum. The complex concepts emerging from this consensus paper should provide a foundation for further discussion, helping identify basic research questions required to understand how the brain represents and utilizes time, as well as delineating ways in which this knowledge can help improve the lives of those with neurological conditions that disrupt this most elemental sense. The panel of experts agrees that timing control in the brain is a complex concept in whom cerebellar circuitry is deeply involved. The concept of a timing machine has now expanded to clinical disorders.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)266-286
Number of pages21
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 15 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebellum
  • Climbing fiber
  • Consensus
  • Movement
  • Temporal processing
  • Timing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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