Role of monkey cerebellar nuclei in skill for sequential movement

Author(s): Lu X, Hikosaka O, Miyachi S


To examine whether the cerebellum is involved in learning and memory of visuomotor sequences, we trained two monkeys on a sequential button press task and inactivated different portions of the cerebellar nuclei by injecting a small amount of muscimol (gamma-aminobutyric acid agonist). Before the injection experiments started, the monkeys had learned a set of sequences (n = 21 and 12) extensively. After each injection, we had the monkeys perform the learned sequences and, in addition, learn new sequences. We found deficits in learning/memory by the injections into the dorsal and central part of the dentate nucleus. The number of errors increased significantly for the learned sequences but not for the new sequences. This effect was present only when the hand ipsilateral to the muscimol injection was used. Consistent with this result, anticipatory saccades, the occurrence of which is correlated closely with motor skill, also became less frequent particularly when the ipsilateral hand was used. No effect on learning/memory was observed after injections into the ventral or lateral parts of the dentate nucleus, interpositus nucleus, or fastigial nucleus. In contrast, hand movements became slower after ipsilateral injections at all of the injection sites. These results suggest that, among the cerebellar nuclei, the dentate nucleus, especially its dorsal and central regions, is related to the storage and/or retrieval of long-term memory for motor skill.

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