Climbing fibers encode a temporal-difference prediction error during cerebellar learning in mice

Nat Neurosci. 2015 Dec;18(12):1798-803. doi: 10.1038/nn.4167. Epub 2015 Nov 9.


Climbing fiber inputs to Purkinje cells are thought to be involved in generating the instructive signals that drive cerebellar learning. To investigate how these instructive signals are encoded, we recorded the activity of individual climbing fibers during cerebellum-dependent eyeblink conditioning in mice. We found that climbing fibers signaled both the unexpected delivery and the unexpected omission of the periocular airpuff that served as the instructive signal for eyeblink conditioning. In addition, we observed that climbing fibers activated by periocular airpuffs also responded to stimuli from other sensory modalities if those stimuli were novel or if they predicted that the periocular airpuff was about to be presented. This pattern of climbing fiber activity is markedly similar to the responses of dopamine neurons during reinforcement learning, which have been shown to encode a particular type of instructive signal known as a temporal difference prediction error.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Forecasting
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology*
  • Time Factors