Purkinje Cell Representations of Behavior: Diary of a Busy Neuron

Neuroscientist. 2019 Jun;25(3):241-257. doi: 10.1177/1073858418785628. Epub 2018 Jul 9.


Fundamental for understanding cerebellar function is determining the representations in Purkinje cell activity, the sole output of the cerebellar cortex. Up to the present, the most accurate descriptions of the information encoded by Purkinje cells were obtained in the context of motor behavior and reveal a high degree of heterogeneity of kinematic and performance error signals encoded. The most productive framework for organizing Purkinje cell firing representations is provided by the forward internal model hypothesis. Direct tests of this hypothesis show that individual Purkinje cells encode two different forward models simultaneously, one for effector kinematics and one for task performance. Newer results demonstrate that the timing of simple spike encoding of motor parameters spans an extend interval of up to ±2 seconds. Furthermore, complex spike discharge is not limited to signaling errors, can be predictive, and dynamically controls the information in the simple spike firing to meet the demands of upcoming behavior. These rich, diverse, and changing representations highlight the integrative aspects of cerebellar function and offer the opportunity to generalize the cerebellar computational framework over both motor and non-motor domains.

Keywords: Purkinje cell; complex spike; forward internal model; kinematics; performance error; sensory prediction error; simple spike.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Feedback, Physiological
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Movement*
  • Psychomotor Performance*
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology*