A neural model of cerebellar learning for arm movement control: Cortico- spino-cerebellar dynamics

Jose L. Contreras-Vidal, Stephen Grossberg, Daniel Bullock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


A neural network model of opponent cerebellar learning for arm movement control is proposed. The model illustrates how a central pattern generator in cortex and basal ganglia, a neuromuscular force controller in spinal cord, and an adaptive cerebellum cooperate to reduce motor variability during multijoint arm movements using mono- and bi-articular muscles. Cerebellar learning modifies velocity commands to produce phasic antagonist bursts at interpositus nucleus cells whose feed-forward action overcomes inherent limitations of spinal feedback control of tracking. Excitation of α motoneuron pools, combined with inhibition of their Renshaw cells by the cerebellum, facilitate movement initiation and optimal execution. Transcerebellar pathways are opened by learning through long-term depression (LTD) of parallel fiber-Purkinje cell synapses in response to conjunctive stimulation of parallel fibers and climbing fiber discharges that signal muscle stretch errors. The cerebellar circuitry also learns to control opponent muscles pairs, allowing cocontraction and reciprocal inhibition of muscles. Learning is stable, exhibits load compensation properties, and generalizes better across movement speeds if motoneuron pools obey the size principle. The intermittency of climbing fiber discharges maintains stable learning. Long-term potentiation (LTP) in response to uncorrelated parallel fiber signals enables previously weakened synapses to recover. Loss of climbing fibers, in the presence of LTP, can erode normal opponent signal processing. Simulated lesions of the cerebellar network reproduce symptoms of cerebellar disease, including sluggish movement onsets, poor execution of multijoint plans, and abnormally prolonged endpoint oscillations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)475-502
Number of pages28
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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