The cerebellum has been implicated in a number of nonmotor mental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder, schizophrenia, and addiction. However, its contribution to these disorders is not well understood. In mice, we found that the cerebellum sends direct excitatory projections to the ventral tegmental area (VTA), one of the brain regions that processes and encodes reward. Optogenetic activation of the cerebello-VTA projections was rewarding and, in a three-chamber social task, these projections were more active when the animal explored the social chamber. Intriguingly, activity in the cerebello-VTA pathway was required for the mice to show social preference in this task. Our data delineate a major, previously unappreciated role for the cerebellum in controlling the reward circuitry and social behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas