« back to the research overview

Cerebellar systems physiology

Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Maarten Frens

The cerebellum plays an essential role in both the performance and plasticity of motor behavior. We try to establish a link between the processes that occur on a molecular, electrophysiological, and behavioral level. To that means we do experiments in healthy humans, patients and in animal models.Our first goal is to crack the complex spike code. Complex spikes are action potentials in cerebellar Purkinje cells that result form olivar input through climbing fibers. They are thought to encode performance error, and lead to plasticity (LTD) at the parallel fiber-Purkinje cell synapses. In rabbits we investigate what code is exactly carried by the climbing fibers, and how this code is generated.Our second goal is to investigate the relation between LTD and motor learning. We do this by studying the learning behavior in patients and experimental animals that have a putatively altered cerebellar plasticity. This alteration is either induced genetically (genetic patients and knockout mice) or immuno-chemically (PCA-patients and mice injected with PCA-antibodies). Our current patient studies in this respect include Williams syndrome, and paraneoplastic cerebellar ataxia. Furthermore we investigate whether motor plasticity at the behavioral level obeys the learning rules that are set by LTD. Our third goal is to investigate the effect of neck injury (RSI, Whiplash) on eye-head movements.Within the Erasmus department of Neuroscience, our group works in close collaboration with the group of Jos van der Geest, and the group of Chris de Zeeuw