Classical conditioning of motor responses, such as the eyeblink response, is an experimental model of associative learning and of adaptive timing of movements. A conditioned blink will have its maximum amplitude near the expected onset of the unconditioned blink-eliciting stimulus and it adapts to changes in the interval between the conditioned and unconditioned stimuli. Previous studies have shown that an eyeblink conditioning protocol can make cerebellar Purkinje cells learn to pause in response to the conditioned stimulus. According to the cerebellar cortical conditioning model, this conditioned Purkinje cell response drives the overt blink. If so, the model predicts that the temporal properties of the Purkinje cell response reflect the overt behaviour. To test this prediction, in vivo recordings of Purkinje cell activity were performed in decerebrate ferrets during conditioning, using direct stimulation of cerebellar mossy and climbing fibre afferents as conditioned and unconditioned stimuli. The results show that Purkinje cells not only develop a change in responsiveness to the conditioned stimulus. They also learn a particular temporal response profile where the timing, not only of onset and maximum but also of offset, is determined by the temporal interval between the conditioned and unconditioned stimuli.
Cerebellum Time Classical conditioning Purkinje cells Climbing fibres Mossy fibres
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This work was supported by grants from the Swedish Research Council to The Linnaeus Centre for Cognition, Communication and Learning at Lund University (349-2007-8695) and to G. Hesslow (09899) and the Söderberg and Åhlen foundations.
Conflict of interest
We hereby certify that we have no conflict of interest to report.
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