What Happens if the Cerebellum is Damaged?

What Happens if the Cerebellum is Damaged

Doctors call the cerebellum the “little brain” for a reason. Even though it’s small compared to the rest of the brain, it holds a lot of power. So what happens if the cerebellum is damaged from a stroke, a car accident, or even a violent assault? Unfortunately, damage to the cerebellum can cause lifelong physical and even cognitive disability. Not only that, but the medical and rehabilitation bills associated with any traumatic brain injury (TBI) can follow you to your grave. 

That’s why personal injury attorneys at Lipton Law fight for justice for those suffering from cerebellar disorders. We fully understand the physical, mental, and financial toll these brain injuries have on a person and their family. For more information on how we can fight for your compensation, call 248-557-1688 today.

What is the Cerebellum?

Although it doesn’t look like it in the brain diagram below, the cerebellum is the second largest part of the brain behind the cerebrum. In fact, the cerebellum only accounts for 10% of the brain’s total size. And while the cerebrum is technically bigger, the cerebellum contains anywhere from 50% to 80% of the brain’s total neurons (AKA: brain cells). 

The cerebellum can be found at the back of the head, where the neck and spinal cord begins. The cerebellum is made up of two parts: the cerebellar cortex and the cerebellar nuclei. The cortex is basically the thin outer layer of the cerebellum that contains billions of nerve cells. Meanwhile, the nuclei are buried inside the cerebellum and are responsible for sending signals to other parts of the brain and body.

what happens if the cerebellum is damaged

What Does the Cerebellum Do?

If you didn’t have a cerebellum, you wouldn’t be able to speak, move, balance, or maintain good posture. But the brain is so complex that we don’t fully understand it. So some doctors and researchers believe that the cerebellum plays a role in processing emotions and being attentive as well as fear responses, pleasure responses, and reward responses.

Here’s what we do know for sure: the cerebellum communicates with multiple parts of the nervous system, including the spinal cord, the brain stem, and the cerebrum. These three parts work together to coordinate voluntary movements (AKA movements that you can control like walking). As previously stated, the cerebellum also plays a major role in maintaining balance, talking, and even fine motor tasks (like typing on a phone or computer, buttoning a shirt, painting, plugging an iPhone into its charger, sewing, etc.).

How Does the Cerebellum Become Damaged?

Although the entire brain is protected by a thick, 6mm layer of bone, it can still sustain damage from a variety of illnesses and injuries.

Damage to the cerebellum can occur due to:

  • A stroke
  • A traumatic brain injury (or any other head/brain injury) is often caused by car accidents or violent assaults. 
  • Brain tumors
  • Multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune conditions
  • Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and any other types of neurodegenerative disorders 
  • Brain infections such as meningitis and encephalitis
  • Alcoholism
  • Mercury or lead poisoning
  • Abusing drugs such as opioids, benzodiazepines (AKA: benzos), cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, etc.

How Does a Stroke Affect the Cerebellum?

Before we explain how a stroke affects the cerebellum, it’s important to know the basics of strokes. 

A stroke is basically when a ruptured blood vessel (or some other blood supply blockage) prevents the brain from receiving appropriate amounts of oxygen and blood flow. Without enough oxygen for even a few minutes, neurons and brain tissue die or sustain serious damage. Unfortunately, strokes are incredibly common. Almost 800,000 Americans have a stroke every year, according to the CDC. 

There are three main types of strokes, and they are:

  • Ischemic Stroke: This type of stroke is certainly the most common. It occurs when plaque or clots block/narrow arteries that lead to the brain.
  • Hemorrhagic Stroke: This type of stroke occurs when a blood vessel breaks and bleeds into the brain.
  • Transient Ischemic Attack, also called a mini-stroke, causes the same symptoms as the aforementioned types of strokes but often resolves on its own within a few minutes. Many doctors believe that these mini-strokes are warning signs of future, larger strokes.

Without immediate medical treatment, stroke sufferers can sustain permanent brain damage or brain injury. This could lead to short-term or long-term disability. In this case, we recommend speaking with a Michigan short-term disability lawyer.

Cerebellar Stroke

A cerebellar stroke, also known as cerebellar stroke syndrome, occurs when a blood vessel leading to the cerebellum ruptures or becomes blocked. Examples of blood vessels that feed the cerebellum include the superior cerebellar artery, posterior inferior cerebellar artery, and the anterior inferior cerebellar artery. If any of these arteries become blocked by a blood clot or plaque, a cerebellar stroke can certainly occur.

According to a 2015 study, cerebellar strokes only occur in 10% of all stroke cases. Additionally, these kinds of strokes only affect one side of the cerebellum. 

Symptoms of a Cerebellar Stroke

If you or someone you love is exhibiting the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention because you could be suffering from a cerebellar stroke:

  • Poor muscle control, coordination, or reflexes
  • Difficulty walking
  • Slurred speech
  • Eye movement abnormalities
  • Swallowing difficulties
  • Dizziness or vertigo

Without immediate medical attention, patients can suffer a permanently damaged cerebellum which often results in a catastrophic injury, permanent disability or even death. 

Symptoms of Cerebellum Disorders and Damage

Cerebellar dysfunction and disorders can, unfortunately, lead to a wide variety of symptoms and health issues. Common symptoms of a cerebellar disorder are listed below.

Loss of Muscle Coordination and Motor Function Changes

Uncoordinated movement of various muscle groups is one of the main signs that someone suffers from cerebellar dysfunction. Because cerebellar damage disrupts the brain signals that are responsible for controlling movement, many cerebellar patients have difficulty walking (also called unsteady gait or ataxic gait). Some people who suffer from cerebellar degeneration also experience muscle spasms (AKA: intention tremor) while trying to complete a voluntary movement, such as picking up a glass of water in order to take a sip. Other body movements that may suffer due to cerebellar damage include facial expressions and even the tongue, resulting in speech and swallowing difficulties.

Damage to the cerebellum also negatively impacts other motor functions such as delayed movements, failure to perform rapid alternating movements, diminished muscle tone, and using an inappropriate amount of strength/speed/distance in order to complete tasks.

Poor Balance

Cerebellar damage greatly impacts a person’s ability to balance. We all know that the inner ears help a person stay upright and balanced, but what we often forget is that the constant coordination of all our muscle groups is crucial in keeping balance as well. Because cerebellar disorders generally cause uncoordinated voluntary movements, patients struggle to keep balance as they walk, stand, or even sit.

Abnormal Eye Movements

Patients with cerebellar brain damage also struggle with odd eye movements in one or both eyes. For example, their eyes may consistently move side to side, up and down, or in circular motions. These movements may cause dizziness and lead to even more balance problems.

Changes in Speech

Cerebellar disorders also tend to cause slurred speech or ataxic dysarthria. As previously explained, an inability to control the movements of the face and tongue could be a partial cause of these speech issues.

Changes in Cognitive Functions

While the cerebellum is most often associated with motor skills, many medical professionals believe that this part of the brain also plays a role in cognitive functions such as motor learning, memory, attention, decision making, problem-solving, thinking, etc. So patients with cerebellar disease or dysfunction could suffer cognitively as well.  

How to Recover From Cerebellum Damage

A patient suffering from a cerebellar disorder generally has to undergo extensive therapy to regain some of their basic functions. The types of rehabilitation that will be the most beneficial for those with cerebellar dysfunction are physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.

Physical Therapy

The goal of physical therapy for those with cerebellar damage is to improve motor coordination, motor control, muscular strength, and balance issues. Therapists can do this through a variety of exercises. For example, cerebellar patients may have to practice walking or standing on uneven surfaces or picking up objects and moving them across the room.  

Speech Therapy

The goal of speech therapy is to help those with cerebellar brain damage learn how to move their face, mouth, and tongue in the correct way to form words. The more someone practices speaking or moving properly, the more function they will regain over time. This is all thanks to neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to change and heal structurally and functionally.

Occupational Therapy

The goal of occupational therapy is to help brain injury sufferers accomplish basic independent living skills. Depending on the severity of the brain injury at hand, the patient may never return to their original level of independence. But occupational therapy can help patients move as far in that direction as possible by helping them accomplish basic self-care, home management, and recreation activities.

Call Personal Injury Lawyers at Lipton Law Today

If you or someone you love is suffering from cerebellar damage due to medical malpractice or a major accident that wasn’t your fault, call Southfield personal injury lawyers at Lipton Law today. The medical and rehabilitation bills associated with brain injuries are massive financial stressors. We want to ensure that you can pay for those bills while you heal – physically and mentally – from your accident and resulting injuries. For more information on how we can help you, call 248-557-1688 today.