Cerebellum-dependent learning: The role of multiple plasticity mechanisms

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Boyden, E. S.*, Katoh, A.*, Raymond, J. L. (2004) Cerebellum-dependent learning: The role of multiple plasticity mechanisms, Annual Review of Neuroscience 27:581-609. (* co-first authors)

The cerebellum is an evolutionarily conserved structure critical for motor learning in vertebrates. The model that has influenced much of the work in the field for the past 30 years suggests that motor learning is mediated by a single plasticity mechanism in the cerebellum: long-term depression (LTD) of parallel fiber synapses onto Purkinje cells. However, recent studies of simple behaviors such as the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) indicate that multiple plasticity mechanisms contribute to cerebellum-dependent learning. Multiple plasticity mechanisms may provide the flexibility required to store memories over different timescales, regulate the dynamics of movement, and allow bidirectional changes in movement amplitude. These plasticity mechanisms must act in combination with appropriate information-coding strategies to equip motor-learning systems with the ability to express learning in correct contexts. Studies of the patterns of generalization of motor learning in the VOR provide insight about the coding of information in neurons at sites of plasticity. These principles emerging from studies of the VOR are consistent with results concerning more complex behaviors and thus may reflect general principles of cerebellar function.