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Cerebellar cortex and eyeblink conditioning: bilateral regulation of conditioned responses

Abstract

We examined the role of the cerebellum in classical conditioning of the nictitating membrane response (NMR) of rabbits by comparing the effects of unilateral and bilateral cerebellar cortical lesions. Using extended preoperative conditioning to ensure high levels of learning, we confirmed that unilateral lesions of lobules HVI and ansiform lobe impaired conditioned responses (CRs) previously established to an auditory conditioned stimulus, but did not prevent some relearning with post-operative retraining. Bilateral lesions of HVI and ansiform lobe produced similar impairments of CRs, but also prevented subsequent relearning. Unilateral cortical lesions produced significant enhancement of unconditioned response (UR) amplitudes to periorbital electrical stimulation. Bilateral cortical lesions enhanced UR amplitudes to a lesser extent. Because there was no correlation between the degree of CR impairment and UR enhancement across the unilateral and bilateral lesion groups, the suggestion that the lesions impaired CRs due to general effects upon performance, rather than due to losses of learning, is not supported. Both sides of the cerebellar cortex contribute towards learning a unilaterally trained CR. This finding is important for the re-interpretation of unilateral, reversible inactivation studies that have found no involvement of the cerebellar deep nuclei in the acquisition of NMR conditioning. In addition, we found conditioning-dependent modifications of unconditioned responses that were particularly apparent at low intensities of periorbital electrical stimulation. This finding is important for the re-interpretation of studies that have found apparent changes in the UR of conditioned subjects after cerebellar lesions.

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Gruart, A., Yeo, C.H. Cerebellar cortex and eyeblink conditioning: bilateral regulation of conditioned responses. Exp Brain Res 104, 431–448 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00231978

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Key words

  • Cerebellar cortex
  • Classical conditioning
  • Nictitating membrane
  • Rabbit