What Is the Function of the Arbor Vitae?

The arbor vitae lies in the center of the cerebellum and is critical in the coordination of the arms, legs and any actions requiring hand-eye coordination. The arbor vitae is made of white matter that transmits information throughout the brain.

The arbor vitae is made up of pink tinted myelinated axons that transmit nerve impulses. The myelin sheaths that cover the axons give the arbor vitae its pink tint from protein and fatty materials. If damage occurs to the myelin sheaths, an individual can end up contracting multiple sclerosis or other diseases. Other issues that can arise in the arbor vitae include cerebellar hemorrhage from tumors and infection from pathogens that lead to ataxia.

The deep cerebellar and the fastigial nuclei are located inside the arbor vitae, as are the emboliform-globose and dentate nuclei. These structures lead to the efferent projections in the cerebellum. The cerebellum sits below the rest of the brain and looks like a separate structure; its surface of parallel groves looks quite different from the irregular convolutions of the cerebral cortex. The cerebellum is composed of a continuous layer of tissue that is tightly folded like an accordion.

The term arbor vitae is Latin for “tree of life,” and is so named due to its tree-like appearance. The tree species Aborvitae was introduced to Europe by French explorers and was known for being able to cure scurvy by making tea from its bark and leaves. In 1558, it obtained its name based on its medicinal properties.