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Nat Commun. 2016 May 9;7:11238. doi: 10.1038/ncomms11238.

Plasticity within non-cerebellar pathways rapidly shapes motor performance in vivo.

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Department of Physiology, McGill University, 3655 Promenade Sir William Osler, Room 1219, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3G 1Y6.
Department of Otolaryngology-Head &Neck Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, 720 Rutland Avenue, Room 830, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


Although cerebellar mechanisms are vital to maintain accuracy during complex movements and to calibrate simple reflexes, recent in vitro studies have called into question the widely held view that synaptic changes within cerebellar pathways exclusively guide alterations in motor performance. Here we investigate the vestibulo-ocular reflex (VOR) circuitry by applying temporally precise activation of vestibular afferents in awake-behaving monkeys to link plasticity at different neural sites with changes in motor performance. Behaviourally relevant activation patterns produce rapid attenuation of direct pathway VOR neurons, but not their nerve input. Changes in the strength of this pathway are sufficient to induce a lasting decrease in the evoked VOR. In addition, indirect brainstem pathways display complementary nearly instantaneous changes, contributing to compensating for the reduced sensitivity of primary VOR neurons. Taken together, our data provide evidence that multiple sites of plasticity within VOR pathways can rapidly shape motor performance in vivo.

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