De Sedibus et Causis Morborum: is Essential Tremor a Primary Disease of the Cerebellum?

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Morgagni’s 1761 publication of De sedibus et causis morborum (i.e., of the Seats and Causes of Diseases) represented a paradigmatic moment in the history of medicine. The book ushered in a new way of conceptualizing human disease, shattering old dogma, and linking constellations of symptoms and signs (i.e., clinical disease) with anatomic pathology in specific organs (i.e., organ disease). This was the anatomical-clinical method, and it attempted to unveil “the seat” of each disease in a specific organ. Essential tremor (ET) is among the most common neurological diseases. There is little debate that the origin of ET lies in the brain, but if one tries to delve more deeply than this, things become murky. The dogma for the past 40 years has been that the seat of ET is the inferior olivary nucleus. Closer scrutiny of this model, however, has revealed its many flaws, and the model, based on little if any empiric evidence, has increasingly lost favor. Arising from a wealth of research in recent years is a growing body of knowledge that links ET to a disarrangement of the cerebellum. Data from a variety of sources reviewed in this issue (clinical, neuroimaging, neurochemical, animal model, physiological, and pathological) link ET to the cerebellum. That the cerebellum is involved in an abnormal brain loop that is responsible for ET is not debated. The tantalizing question is whether an abnormality in the cerebellum is the prime mover, and whether the cerebellum is the seat of this particular disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)233-234
Number of pages2
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cerebellum
  • Essential tremor

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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