After decades of study, a comprehensive understanding of cerebellar function remains elusive. Several hypotheses have been put forward over the years, including that the cerebellum functions as a forward internal model. Integrated into the forward model framework is the long-standing view that Purkinje cell complex spike discharge encodes error information. In this brief review, we address both of these concepts based on our recordings of cerebellar Purkinje cells over the last decade as well as newer findings from the literature. During a high-dimensionality tracking task requiring continuous error processing, we find that complex spike discharge provides a rich source of non-error signals to Purkinje cells, indicating that the classical error encoding role ascribed to climbing fiber input needs revision. Instead, the simple spike discharge of Purkinje cells carries robust predictive and feedback signals of performance errors, as well as kinematics. These simple spike signals are consistent with a forward internal model. We also show that the information encoded in the simple spike is dynamically adjusted by the complex spike firing. Synthesis of these observations leads to the hypothesis that complex spikes convey behavioral state changes, possibly acting to select and maintain forward models.
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We would like to thank Kathleen Beterams for her help with the manuscript. Supported in part by NIH grant R01 NS18338.
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Streng, M.L., Popa, L.S. & Ebner, T.J. Cerebellar Representations of Errors and Internal Models. Cerebellum 21, 814–820 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12311-022-01406-3
- Purkinje cell
- Simple spike
- Complex spike
- Performance error
- Prediction error
- Forward internal model