Cerebellar and prefrontal cortex contributions to adaptation, strategies, and reinforcement learning

Prog Brain Res. 2014:210:217-53. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-63356-9.00009-1.


Traditionally, motor learning has been studied as an implicit learning process, one in which movement errors are used to improve performance in a continuous, gradual manner. The cerebellum figures prominently in this literature given well-established ideas about the role of this system in error-based learning and the production of automatized skills. Recent developments have brought into focus the relevance of multiple learning mechanisms for sensorimotor learning. These include processes involving repetition, reinforcement learning, and strategy utilization. We examine these developments, considering their implications for understanding cerebellar function and how this structure interacts with other neural systems to support motor learning. Converging lines of evidence from behavioral, computational, and neuropsychological studies suggest a fundamental distinction between processes that use error information to improve action execution or action selection. While the cerebellum is clearly linked to the former, its role in the latter remains an open question.

Keywords: adaptation; ataxia; basal ganglia; cerebellum; error-based learning; prefrontal cortex; reinforcement learning; sensorimotor learning; systems interaction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological* / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Reinforcement, Psychology