Purkinje Cells in Posterior Cerebellar Vermis Encode Motion in an Inertial Reference Frame

Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.
Neuron (Impact Factor: 15.05). 07/2007; 54(6):973-85. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2007.06.003
Source: PubMed


The ability to orient and navigate through the terrestrial environment represents a computational challenge common to all vertebrates. It arises because motion sensors in the inner ear, the otolith organs, and the semicircular canals transduce self-motion in an egocentric reference frame. As a result, vestibular afferent information reaching the brain is inappropriate for coding our own motion and orientation relative to the outside world. Here we show that cerebellar cortical neuron activity in vermal lobules 9 and 10 reflects the critical computations of transforming head-centered vestibular afferent information into earth-referenced self-motion and spatial orientation signals. Unlike vestibular and deep cerebellar nuclei neurons, where a mixture of responses was observed, Purkinje cells represent a homogeneous population that encodes inertial motion. They carry the earth-horizontal component of a spatially transformed and temporally integrated rotation signal from the semicircular canals, which is critical for computing head attitude, thus isolating inertial linear accelerations during navigation.

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    • "Spatial navigation involves a combination of internal cues such as proprioceptive and vestibular input, as well as external cues such as landmarks (Dumont and Taube, 2015). The cerebellum receives input from the vestibular nucleus (Hitier et al., 2014) and is believed to play a crucial role in encoding inertial motion and transforming self-motion vestibular information from an egocentric headcentered reference into allocentric Earth-referenced spatial orientation (Yakusheva et al., 2007; Angelaki et al., 2010). Transgenic mice with impaired cerebellar function have deficits in goal-directed spatial trajectories (Burguière et al., 2005), retention of spatial memory (Hilber et al., 1998), and tasks requiring use of self-motion information (Rochefort et al., 2011). "
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    • "It therefore crucially monitors sensory information for updating mental representation of space (Rondi-Reig et al., 2014; Lefort et al., 2015). The cerebellum normally uses otolith and semicircular canal signals to convert vestibular head centered into earth-referenced self-motion and spatial orientation signals (Yakusheva et al., 2007). During locomotion-dependent real navigation self-motion information can be used for building and updating spatial representation. "
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    • "Using transgenic L7PKCI mice, which selectively lack protein kinase C-dependent plasticity at parallel fiber-Purkinje cell synapses in the cerebellum, Rochefort et al. (2011) examined hippocampal place cells during navigation. Purkinje cells are thought to transform vestibular head-orientation information into Earth-reference spatial orientation and self-motion information (Yakusheva et al., 2007). Although the L7PKCI mice had significantly fewer place cells compared with wild-type littermates, place fields were largely unaffected during normal conditions when both idiothetic and landmark information were available . "
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