Understanding cerebellum in vertebrate neuroethology: From sensing in sharks and electric fish to motor sequences in movement and birdsong

Behav Neurosci. 2019 Jun;133(3):267-281. doi: 10.1037/bne0000317. Epub 2019 Apr 22.


The elaborate structure of the cerebellum has been long known, although its contribution to a remarkable diversity of behavior is only recently appreciated. Taking an evolutionary perspective, we consider the wider function of the cerebellum based on insight from the function of so-called cerebellum-like structures. Cerebellum-like structures cancel the effects of self-stimulation, a function that has been well characterized in both elasmobranch and weakly electric fish. This function depends on the implementation of an adaptive filter, which provides an input-output transformation modified by specific learning rules. We argue that the broad contribution of the cerebellum to behavior can be understood by thinking of the cerebellum as an array of adaptive filters that can be coopted to a wide range of tasks. Consistent with this, studies of mammalian cerebellum reveal operations characteristic of an adaptive filter, which we review here. We then describe a model for how a cerebellar adaptive filter architecture could interact with central pattern generators and sensory feedback to coordinate sequentially patterned behavior. Finally, we use the acquisition and production of complex vocal motor sequencing in birdsong as an example to explore how this model of cerebellar adaptive filter-central pattern generator interactions may contribute to other important domains of vertebrate neuroethology. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal*
  • Biological Evolution
  • Birds
  • Cerebellum / metabolism
  • Cerebellum / physiology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electric Fish
  • Ethology / methods
  • Learning / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Sharks