Oscillations, Timing, Plasticity, and Learning in the Cerebellum

Cerebellum. 2016 Apr;15(2):122-38. doi: 10.1007/s12311-015-0665-9.


The highly stereotyped, crystal-like architecture of the cerebellum has long served as a basis for hypotheses with regard to the function(s) that it subserves. Historically, most clinical observations and experimental work have focused on the involvement of the cerebellum in motor control, with particular emphasis on coordination and learning. Two main models have been suggested to account for cerebellar functioning. According to Llinás's theory, the cerebellum acts as a control machine that uses the rhythmic activity of the inferior olive to synchronize Purkinje cell populations for fine-tuning of coordination. In contrast, the Ito-Marr-Albus theory views the cerebellum as a motor learning machine that heuristically refines synaptic weights of the Purkinje cell based on error signals coming from the inferior olive. Here, we review the role of timing of neuronal events, oscillatory behavior, and synaptic and non-synaptic influences in functional plasticity that can be recorded in awake animals in various physiological and pathological models in a perspective that also includes non-motor aspects of cerebellar function. We discuss organizational levels from genes through intracellular signaling, synaptic network to system and behavior, as well as processes from signal production and processing to memory, delegation, and actual learning. We suggest an integrative concept for control and learning based on articulated oscillation templates.

Keywords: Golgi cell; Inferior olive; Learning; Motor control; Oscillation; Plasticity; Purkinje cell.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Time Factors