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J Neural Eng. 2005 Sep;2(3):S219-34. Epub 2005 Aug 31.

Evolution of the cerebellum as a neuronal machine for Bayesian state estimation.

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Department of Zoology and Centre for Neuroscience, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.


The cerebellum evolved in association with the electric sense and vestibular sense of the earliest vertebrates. Accurate information provided by these sensory systems would have been essential for precise control of orienting behavior in predation. A simple model shows that individual spikes in electrosensory primary afferent neurons can be interpreted as measurements of prey location. Using this result, I construct a computational neural model in which the spatial distribution of spikes in a secondary electrosensory map forms a Monte Carlo approximation to the Bayesian posterior distribution of prey locations given the sense data. The neural circuit that emerges naturally to perform this task resembles the cerebellar-like hindbrain electrosensory filtering circuitry of sharks and other electrosensory vertebrates. The optimal filtering mechanism can be extended to handle dynamical targets observed from a dynamical platform; that is, to construct an optimal dynamical state estimator using spiking neurons. This may provide a generic model of cerebellar computation. Vertebrate motion-sensing neurons have specific fractional-order dynamical characteristics that allow Bayesian state estimators to be implemented elegantly and efficiently, using simple operations with asynchronous pulses, i.e. spikes. The computational neural models described in this paper represent a novel kind of particle filter, using spikes as particles. The models are specific and make testable predictions about computational mechanisms in cerebellar circuitry, while providing a plausible explanation of cerebellar contributions to aspects of motor control, perception and cognition.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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