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Brain Res Rev. 2011 Jan 7;66(1-2):5-15. doi: 10.1016/j.brainresrev.2010.10.002. Epub 2010 Oct 13.

The cerebellar network: from structure to function and dynamics.

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Department of Physiology, University of Pavia, I-27100 Pavia, Italy.


Since the discoveries of Camillo Golgi and Ramón y Cajal, the precise cellular organization of the cerebellum has inspired major computational theories, which have then influenced the scientific thought not only on the cerebellar function but also on the brain as a whole. However, six major issues revealing a discrepancy between morphologically inspired hypothesis and function have emerged. (1) The cerebellar granular layer does not simply operate a simple combinatorial decorrelation of the inputs but performs more complex non-linear spatio-temporal transformations and is endowed with synaptic plasticity. (2) Transmission along the ascending axon and parallel fibers does not lead to beam formation but rather to vertical columns of activation. (3) The olivo-cerebellar loop could perform complex timing operations rather than error detection and teaching. (4) Purkinje cell firing dynamics are much more complex than for a linear integrator and include pacemaking, burst-pause discharges, and bistable states in response to mossy and climbing fiber synaptic inputs. (5) Long-term synaptic plasticity is far more complex than traditional parallel fiber LTD and involves also other cerebellar synapses. (6) Oscillation and resonance could set up coherent cycles of activity designing a functional geometry that goes far beyond pre-wired anatomical circuits. These observations clearly show that structure is not sufficient to explain function and that a precise knowledge on dynamics is critical to understand how the cerebellar circuit operates.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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