Cerebellar granule cells acquire a widespread predictive feedback signal during motor learning

Nat Neurosci. 2017 May;20(5):727-734. doi: 10.1038/nn.4531. Epub 2017 Mar 20.


Cerebellar granule cells, which constitute half the brain's neurons, supply Purkinje cells with contextual information necessary for motor learning, but how they encode this information is unknown. Here we show, using two-photon microscopy to track neural activity over multiple days of cerebellum-dependent eyeblink conditioning in mice, that granule cell populations acquire a dense representation of the anticipatory eyelid movement. Initially, granule cells responded to neutral visual and somatosensory stimuli as well as periorbital airpuffs used for training. As learning progressed, two-thirds of monitored granule cells acquired a conditional response whose timing matched or preceded the learned eyelid movements. Granule cell activity covaried trial by trial to form a redundant code. Many granule cells were also active during movements of nearby body structures. Thus, a predictive signal about the upcoming movement is widely available at the input stage of the cerebellar cortex, as required by forward models of cerebellar control.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticipation, Psychological / physiology
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology
  • Feedback*
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neurons / physiology*