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.
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