The role of the Cerebellum in Learning
W. T. Thach
The aim of this study was to review previous research to see what roles the cerebellum has in learning a coordinated movement.
The cerebellum is said to learn new movements by different pathways going into the cerebellum e.g. purkinje cells. These cells were also said to be the ones producing action potentials when movement occurs.
These different pathways carry information about different situations i.e. learning a new movement. These pathways also contain a great amount of memory cells that contain the information about the new movement that has been learnt. There is also a second pathway that helps these purkinje cells learn and recognize new patterns in the information from the first pathways. In response to the new information that is inputted, new patterns of movements are then created.
Gilbert and Thach (1977) wanted to test to see if the cerebellum actually is involved when trying to learn a new co-ordination movement. To do this they tried to teach monkeys to perform different tasks using a manipulandum against constant torque loads. The main thing they were looking at were the wrist movements of the monkeys.
Within the first 12 to 100 trials the monkeys were able to adapt to the task and this was explained by Evarts (1973) as being because of the long loop functional stretch. This is when the muscle has to activated in order for movement to occur. In order for the muscle to be activated the cerebellum has to be stimulated.
One of the conclusions of the study was that once a skilled movement has been learned, it remains coded in cerebellar memory cells for a really long time.]
Coordination of the many body parts in order to attain smooth movements is usually agreed to be one of the particular roles of cerebellar control. This is often thought of as being due to a “fine-tuning” of the many movement pattern generators downstream from the cerebellum in the spinal cord, brainstem, and motor cortex (Holmes, 1939).