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The mysterious microcircuitry of the cerebellar nuclei.

M Uusisaari, E De Schutter

M. Uusisaari: OIST, Tancha, Onna, Kunigami, Okinawa 1919-1, Japan. yoe@iki.fi.

The Journal of physiology 589(Pt 14):3441-57 (2011)

Abstract - Abstract  The microcircuitry of cerebellar cortex and, in particular, the physiology of its main element, the Purkinje neuron, has been extensively investigated and described. However, activity in Purkinje neurons, either as single cells or populations, does not directly mediate the cerebellar effects on the motor effector systems. Rather, the result of the entire cerebellar cortical computation is passed to the relatively small cerebellar nuclei that act as the final, integrative processing unit in the cerebellar circuitry. The nuclei ultimately control the temporal and spatial features of the cerebellar output. Given this key role, it is striking that the internal organization and the connectivity with afferent and efferent pathways in the cerebellar nuclei are rather poorly known. In the present review, we discuss some of the many critical shortcomings in the understanding of cerebellar nuclei microcircuitry: the extent of convergence and divergence of the cerebellar cortical pathway to the various cerebellar nuclei neurons and subareas, the possible (lack of) conservation of the finely-divided topographical organization in the cerebellar cortex at the level of the nuclei, as well as the absence of knowledge of the synaptic circuitry within the cerebellar nuclei. All these issues are important for predicting the pattern-extraction and encoding capabilities of the cerebellar nuclei and, until resolved, theories and models of cerebellar motor control and learning may err considerably.

PMID: 21521761 [PubMed]