Cerebellum and Timing

Written By: Headache

Cerebellum part - Human brain in x-ray viewJuly 25, 2012 — A new study has found that the ability to estimate the passage of time is impaired in patients with migraine headaches, a finding that supports the view that migraine affects cognitive function, reported Pauline Anderson.

According to Anderson “Migraineurs in the study tended to overestimate the duration of a visual stimulus when it was reported in milliseconds but not seconds, and although the neural mechanism underlying this impairment is not fully understood, it is suspected that the cerebellum is involved.”

The study presents evidence suggesting the relationship between the cerebellum and the ability to process time. “Impairment in time perception may lead to inaccurate estimates of the duration of an event, for example, it will affect a person’s behavioral response to a painful stimulus because the person misestimates the duration of the stimulus”. 

It was illustrated that the deficit in time perception was a consequence of the slowing of cerebellar function. They reported that “…the overestimation of time intervals in the millisecond range may reflect a slowing in the cerebellar event timing system, and there is functional impairment in the cerebellum of migraineurs interictally.” That is to say, that the deficit in function was because of the slowing of cerebellum between migraines not during the migraine.

So if decreased cerebellar function, leads to decreased ability to process time, it would seem logical to say that increased cerebellar function should increase our ability to process time.

At Brain Centers NW one of the tools we use for improving timing and rhythm is the Interactive Metronome. We use both in office equipment and home based equipment to train athletes. The training helps their timing, rhythm and attention. The exercises challenge cerebellum as well as other related brain structures. Perhaps, those who suffer with migraines should have baseline testing with the Interactive Metronome, particularly if they are athletes. 

Now, while this study points out the importance of the cerebellum with respect to motor timing, they acknowledge that processing of time involves many cognitive functions. They note that “research has suggested that perception of time involves several cognitive functions, including perception, attention, and memory…” The model at Brain Centers NW also recognizes that brain function is not a consequence of isolated areas of activity but rather is an integrated network.  

So the take home messages are that migraines affect brain function beyond the migraine period itself; that cerebellum is related to the ability to process time and that both athletes and those who suffer from migraines should look at brain training programsthat include exercises for the development of cerebellum and related structures.


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