Some organizing principles for the control of movement based on olivocerebellar physiology

Prog Brain Res. 1997;114:449-61. doi: 10.1016/s0079-6123(08)63380-4.


Motor control is defined as the process of restricting the output of the motor nervous system so that meaningful and coordinated behavior ensues. The high dimensionality of the computation underlying motor control is presented and a simplifying framework is outlined. Evidence that movements are performed non-continuously is reviewed as is the construct of the 'motor synergy' as a fundamental unit of control. It is proposed that the pulsatile nature of movement and the tendency of muscle collectives to be activated as synergies reflect processes that the nervous system has evolved to reduce the dimensionality of motor control. We propose that the inferior olive simplifies the computation underlying motor control by biasing the activities of spinal and cranial motor systems so that discrete collectives of muscles are predisposed to contract at specific times during movement. The well-characterized oscillatory activity of olivary neurons is postulated to provide a pacemaking signal and to restrict the control process to particular moments in time while the process of electrotonic coupling and uncoupling of assemblies of olivary neurons is proposed to underlie the spatial distribution of synergic muscle activations. It is proposed that the olivocerebellar contribution to the control process is to allow movements to be executed rapidly in a feedforward manner, so that the need for sensory guidance and feedback is minimized.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Movement / physiology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / innervation
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Olivary Nucleus / physiology*
  • Spinal Cord / physiology