Cerebellar cortex involvement in classical eyelid conditioning

Stephen Paro Perrett, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


A model for cerebellar involvement in motor learning was tested using classical eyelid conditioning in the rabbit. Briefly, we assume that modifications of the strength of granule cell synapses at Purkinje cells in the cerebellar cortex and mossy fiber (MF) synapses at cerebellar interpositus nuclei are responsible for the acquisition, adaptively-timed expression, and extinction of conditioned eyelid responses (CRs). A corollary of these assumptions is that the cerebellar cortex is necessary for acquisition and extinction. This model also suggests a mechanism whereby the cerebellar cortex can discriminate different times during a conditioned stimulus (CS) and thus mediate the learned timing of CRs. Therefore, experiments were done to determine the role of the cerebellar cortex in the timing, extinction, and acquisition of CRs. Lesions of the cerebellar cortex that included the anterior lobe disrupted the learned timing of CRs such that they occurred at extremely short latencies. Stimulation of MFs in the middle cerebellar peduncle as the CS could support differently timed CRs in the same animal. These data indicate that synaptic plasticity in the cerebellar cortex mediates the learned timing of CRs. These short-latency CRs which resulted from anterior lobe damage did not extinguish, while CRs in animals receiving lesions which did not include the anterior lobe extinguished normally. Preliminary data suggests that lesions of the anterior lobe which produce short-latency responses prevent the acquisition of CRs to a novel CS. These findings indicate that the anterior lobe of cerebellar cortex is necessary for eyelid conditioning. The involvement of the anterior lobe in eyelid conditioning has not been previously reported, however, the anterior lobe has generally been spared in lesion studies examining cerebellar cortex involvement in eyelid conditioning due to its relatively inaccessible location. The observation that the anterior lobe of the cerebellar cortex is not always required for the basic expression of CRs, but is necessary for response timing, extinction, and acquisition, is consistent with the hypothesis that eyelid conditioning can involve plasticity in both the cerebellar cortex and interpositus nucleus and that plasticity in the nucleus is controlled by Purkinje cell activity.

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Recommended Citation

Perrett, Stephen Paro, "Cerebellar cortex involvement in classical eyelid conditioning" (1994). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9512002.