The ‘little brain’: Error detection by the cerebellum and its role in motor learning

Supervisors: Maarten F Zwart, V Anne Smith

Project Description:

Olivocerebellar system-dependent motor learning

The cerebellum is crucial for motor learning: it integrates information from the spinal cord and the senses to assess the execution of each movement, and implements changes if the movement does not match the desired result. Its contribution to the coordination, timing and spatial precision of movements is demonstrated by the many motor deficits observed in patients with cerebellar abnormalities, including poor balance, tremors, and an inability to perform rapid movements.

Crucial to the motor learning process is the detection of a mismatch between the intended and actual movement by the inferior olivary nucleus (IO), which modulates the efficacy of the parallel fibre-to-Purkinje neuron synapse. In spite of its central importance to motor learning, it is unclear how the inferior olivary nucleus encodes this error signal to implement motor learning.

Based on preliminary results, this project aims to understand this process by probing the activity and connectivity of the larval zebrafish IO in the context of motor learning. We will use a combination of the latest tools in neural activity imaging, optogenetics, data analysis, and network modelling.
Supervised by a neuroscientist and a computational biologist, the project will provide an excellent training opportunity for the postgraduate student, preparing them for a career in the scientific and technology sectors.

If you wish to apply for this project, please go to this link.