Here we argue that general principles with regard to the contributions of the cerebellum, basal ganglia, and primary motor cortex to motor learning can begin to be inferred from explicit comparison across model systems and consideration of phylogeny. Both the cerebellum and the basal ganglia have highly conserved circuit architecture in vertebrates. The cerebellum has consistently been shown to be necessary for adaptation of eye and limb movements. The precise contribution of the basal ganglia to motor learning remains unclear but one consistent finding is that they are necessary for early acquisition of novel sequential actions. The primary motor cortex allows independent control of joints and construction of new movement synergies. We suggest that this capacity of the motor cortex implies that it is a necessary locus for motor skill learning, which we argue is the ability to execute selected actions with increasing speed and precision.
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