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The cerebellar vermis is a structure of the brain's cerebellum that has a narrow, worm-like shape. Named after the Latin term for "little brain," the cerebellum is a small portion of the brain's rear lower region that is instrumental in the body's coordination and movement. Thus, as part of the cerebellum, the cerebellar vermis plays a part in these two functions.
Placed underneath the brain's two regions called cerebral hemispheres, which are created by the even split of a deep groove called the medial longitudinal fissure, the cerebellum appears as a distinct structure. The cerebellar vermis is the cerebellum's median, or central, portion. This means that it is placed between the two hemispheres, consequently joining both regions.
The cerebellar vermis mainly consists of two portions, or lobes. The top portion is referred to as the superior cerebellar vermis, while the bottom portion is referred to as inferior cerebellar vermis. The structure is subdivided into nine lobules, which are the central, culmen, declive, folium, lingula, nodulus, pyramid, tuber and uvula.
The main responsibility of this area is proprioception, which is the ability to recognize the relative positioning of body parts used for movement. This portion of the cerebellum accomplishes proprioception by comparing the motor commands from the brain with the sensations it receives from the spine. The vermis uses this data to determine the appropriate spatial positions of body parts. It also assists in correcting movements so that the body moves normally according to timing and sequencing. The body parts that the vermis is involved with include the neck, hips and shoulders.
Also included among the functions of the vermis is the control of muscle tone and level of force. Muscle tone indicates for the level of tension present in the muscles. Level of force denotes the amount of work that the body needs from the muscles for movements, including rapid and sequential moves.
The cerebellar vermis is clinically significant for a medical condition called Dandy-Walker Syndrome (DWS). It is also known as Dandy-Walker complex or Dandy-Walker malformation. Named after American neurosurgeons Walter Edward Dandy and Arthur Earl Walker, who first described the ailment, DWS involves a vermis that is partially or completely missing.
DWS is typically associated with the enlargement of brainstem nuclei and increase of the cerebrospinal fluid upon which the brain floats. Its occurrence is sporadic, but most commonly affecting females and children. Treatment of DWS usually involves removing the excess fluid using a specialized tube.
@indigomoth - That's not the only reason they should be interested in the cerebellar vermis though. I know one of the things that they are only beginning to get really good at is the application of force when it comes to robotics. For example, if you've got a robot hand with a glass, how do you get it to learn how tightly to hold it? Too tight and the glass shatters, too loose and it falls.
We do this automatically, because of this part of the brain, but teaching a computer "brain" to do it is more difficult. I'm not sure how much they base their work around the human brain, but I imagine it probably does them some good to at least keep it in mind, so to speak.
@irontoenail - I think as well as gravity, the cerebellar vermis takes into account how the muscles are interacting with the spine, like relative positions and things like that.
Actually, it's something that is being studied quite a lot at the moment, since it's very relevant to the fields of robotics. While our brains are still much more advanced than the best computer they've got, they are getting better and better at using organic processes to help robots move with more agility. Proprioception is just one of the ways in which they manage to achieve certain goals.
One day we might see robots that can do pretty much anything we can do, in terms of movement at any rate.
I have actually heard that someone suggested that proprioception should be named one of the senses. If you think about the traditional senses of touch, hearing, smell, taste and sight, and then think about how many other ways human beings have of taking in information about the world, you can see that having only five senses isn't right.
Proprioception, for example, is something that you would be able to do even without any of the other senses. Somehow, maybe through calculating the force of gravity on the body, the cerebellar vermis is able to figure out where everything is.
So, even if, for example, you suddenly lost your sense of touch and sight, you'd still be able to put your finger on your nose with accuracy (as long as you aren't drunk).
It's actually pretty incredible what our brains are capable of doing.
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