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J Physiol. 2008 Feb 15;586(4):1117-36. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2007.144220. Epub 2008 Jan 10.

Bilateral representation in the deep cerebellar nuclei.

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Institute of Neuroscience, Newcastle University, Sir James Spence Building, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Queen Victoria Road, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4LP, UK.


The cerebellum is normally assumed to represent ipsilateral movements. We tested this by making microelectrode penetrations into the deep cerebellar nuclei (mainly nucleus interpositus) of monkeys trained to perform a reach and grasp task with either hand. Following weak single electrical stimuli, many sites produced clear bilateral facilitation of multiple forelimb muscles. The short onset latencies, which were similar for each side, suggested that at least some of the muscle responses were mediated by descending tracts originating in the brainstem, rather than via the cerebral cortex. Additionally, cerebellar neurones modulated their discharge with both ipsilateral and contralateral movements. This was so, even when we carefully excluded contralateral trials with evidence of electromyogram modulation on the ipsilateral side. We conclude that the deep cerebellar nuclei have a bilateral movement representation, and relatively direct, powerful access to limb muscles on both sides of the body. This places the cerebellum in an ideal position to coordinate bilateral movements.

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