Role of the olivo-cerebellar complex in motor learning and control

Front Neural Circuits. 2013 May 28;7:94. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2013.00094. eCollection 2013.


How is the cerebellum capable of efficient motor learning and control despite very low firing of the inferior olive (IO) inputs, which are postulated to carry errors needed for learning and contribute to on-line motor control? IO neurons form the largest electrically coupled network in the adult human brain. Here, we discuss how intermediate coupling strengths can lead to chaotic resonance and increase information transmission of the error signal despite the very low IO firing rate. This increased information transmission can then lead to more efficient learning than with weak or strong coupling. In addition, we argue that a dynamic modulation of IO electrical coupling via the Purkinje cell-deep cerebellar neurons - IO triangle could speed up learning and improve on-line control. Initially strong coupling would allow transmission of large errors to multiple functionally related Purkinje cells, resulting in fast but coarse learning as well as significant effects on deep cerebellar nucleus and on-line motor control. In the late phase of learning decreased coupling would allow desynchronized IO firing, allowing high-fidelity transmission of error, resulting in slower but fine learning, and little on-line motor control effects.

Keywords: Purkinje cells; cerebellum; complex spikes; deep cerebellar nucleus; electrical coupling; inferior olive; motor learning; synchrony.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology
  • Olivary Nucleus / physiology*
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology