The cerebellum has a simple tri-laminar structure that is comprised of relatively few cell types. Yet, its internal micro-circuitry is anatomically, biochemically, and functionally complex. The most striking feature of cerebellar circuit complexity is its compartmentalized topography. Each cell type within the cerebellar cortex is organized into an exquisite map; molecular expression patterns, dendrite projections, and axon terminal fields divide the medial-lateral axis of the cerebellum into topographic sagittal zones. Here, we discuss the mechanisms that establish zones and highlight how gene expression and neural activity contribute to cerebellar pattern formation. We focus on the olivocerebellar system because its developmental mechanisms are becoming clear, its topographic termination patterns are very precise, and its contribution to zonal function is debated. This review deconstructs the architecture and development of the olivocerebellar pathway to provide an update on how brain circuit maps form and function.
Keywords: cerebellum; circuitry; climbing fibers; inferior olive; topography; zones.