The cerebellum: a new key structure in the navigation system

  • Rochefort C
  • Lefort J
  • Rondi-Reig L
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Abstract

Early investigations of cerebellar function focused on motor learning, in particular on eyeblink conditioning and adaptation of the vestibulo-ocular reflex, and led to the general view that cerebellar long-term depression (LTD) at parallel fiber (PF)-Purkinje cell (PC) synapses is the neural correlate of cerebellar motor learning. Thereafter, while the full complexity of cerebellar plasticities was being unraveled, cerebellar involvement in more cognitive tasks-including spatial navigation-was further investigated. However, cerebellar implication in spatial navigation remains a matter of debate because motor deficits frequently associated with cerebellar damage often prevent the dissociation between its role in spatial cognition from its implication in motor function. Here, we review recent findings from behavioral and electrophysiological analyses of cerebellar mutant mouse models, which show that the cerebellum might participate in the construction of hippocampal spatial representation map (i.e., place cells) and thereby in goal-directed navigation. These recent advances in cerebellar research point toward a model in which computation from the cerebellum could be required for spatial representation and would involve the integration of multi-source self-motion information to: (1) transform the reference frame of vestibular signals and (2) distinguish between self- and externally-generated vestibular signals. We eventually present herein anatomical and functional connectivity data supporting a cerebello-hippocampal interaction. Whilst a direct cerebello-hippocampal projection has been suggested, recent investigations rather favor a multi-synaptic pathway involving posterior parietal and retrosplenial cortices, two regions critically involved in spatial navigation.

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Rochefort, C., Lefort, J., & Rondi-Reig, L. (2013). The cerebellum: a new key structure in the navigation system. Frontiers in Neural Circuits, 7. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncir.2013.00035

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