Timing Rules for Synaptic Plasticity Matched to Behavioral Function

Neuron. 2016 Dec 7;92(5):959-967. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2016.10.022. Epub 2016 Nov 10.


It is widely assumed that the complexity of neural circuits enables them to implement diverse learning tasks using just a few generic forms of synaptic plasticity. In contrast, we report that synaptic plasticity can itself be precisely tuned to the requirements of a learning task. We found that the rules for induction of long-term and single-trial plasticity at parallel fiber-to-Purkinje cell synapses vary across cerebellar regions. In the flocculus, associative plasticity in vitro and in vivo is narrowly tuned for an interval of ∼120 ms, which compensates for the specific processing delay for error signals to reach the flocculus during oculomotor learning. In the vermis, which supports a range of behavioral functions, plasticity is induced by a range of intervals, with individual cells tuned for different intervals. Thus, plasticity at a single, anatomically defined type of synapse can have properties that vary in a way that is precisely matched to function.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebellar Vermis / cytology
  • Cerebellar Vermis / physiology*
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Eye Movements / physiology*
  • Formative Feedback
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Long-Term Synaptic Depression / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology*
  • Time Factors