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Arthropod Struct Dev. 2011 Jul;40(4):368-79. doi: 10.1016/j.asd.2011.02.004. Epub 2011 Mar 1.

Are mushroom bodies cerebellum-like structures?

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Department of Biology, West Virginia University, 3139 Life Sciences Building, 53 Campus Drive, Morgantown, WV 26505, USA.


The mushroom bodies are distinctive neuropils in the protocerebral brain segments of many protostomes. A defining feature of mushroom bodies is their intrinsic neurons, masses of cytoplasm-poor globuli cells that form a system of lobes with their densely-packed, parallel-projecting axon-like processes. In insects, the role of the mushroom bodies in olfactory processing and associative learning and memory has been studied in depth, but several lines of evidence suggest that the function of these higher brain centers cannot be restricted to these roles. The present account considers whether insight into an underlying function of mushroom bodies may be provided by cerebellum-like structures in vertebrates, which are similarly defined by the presence of masses of tiny granule cells that emit thin parallel fibers forming a dense molecular layer. In vertebrates, the shared neuroarchitecture of cerebellum-like structures has been suggested to underlie a common functional role as adaptive filters for the removal of predictable sensory elements, such as those arising from reafference, from the total sensory input. Cerebellum-like structures include the vertebrate cerebellum, the electrosensory lateral line lobe, dorsal and medial octavolateral nuclei of fish, and the dorsal cochlear nucleus of mammals. The many architectural and physiological features that the insect mushroom bodies share with cerebellum-like structures suggest that it might be fruitful to consider mushroom body function in light of a possible role as adaptive sensory filters. The present account thus presents a detailed comparison of the insect mushroom bodies with vertebrate cerebellum-like structures.

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