Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The cerebellum as navigation assistant: A cognitive map enables orientation

03.11.2011
The cerebellum as navigation assistant
A cognitive map enables orientation

The cerebellum is far more intensively involved in helping us navigate than previously thought. To move and learn effectively in spatial environments our brain, and particularly our hippocampus, creates a "cognitive" map of the environment. The cerebellum contributes to the creation of this map through altering the chemical communication between its neurones.

If this ability is inactivated, the brain is no longer able to to create an effective spatial representation and thus navigation in an environment becomes impaired. The details of these observations were recently published in "Science" by the Ruhr University neuroscientist, Marion André who is a student of the International Graduate School of Neuroscience( IGSN), along with her colleagues in France.

A cognitive map in the hippocampus

In order to navigate efficiently in an environment, we need to create and maintain a reliable internal representation of the external world. A key region enabling such representation is the hippocampus which contains specialized pyramidal neurons named place cells. Each place cell is activated at specific location of the environment and gives dynamic information about self-location relative to the external world. These neurons thus generate a cognitive map in the hippocampal system through the integration of multi sensory inputs combining external information (such as visual, auditory, olfactory and tactile cues) and inputs generated by self-motion (i.e. optic flow, proprioceptive and vestibular information).

Decisive: synaptic plasticity

Our ability to navigate also relies on the potential to use this cognitive map to form an optimal trajectory toward a goal. The cerebellum, a foliate region based at the back of the brain, has been recently shown to participate in the formation of the optimal trajectory. This structure contains neurons that are able to increase or decrease their chemical communication, a mechanism called synaptic plasticity. A decrease in the synaptic transmission of the cerebellar neurons, named long-term depression (LTD) participates in the optimization of the path toward a goal.

No orientation without LTD

Using transgenic mice that had a mutation impairing exclusively LTD of the cerebellar neurons, the neuroscientists were able to show that the cerebellum participates also in the formation of the hippocampal cognitive map. Indeed mice lacking this form of cerebellar plasticity were unable to build a reliable cognitive representation of the environment when they had to use self-motion information. Consequently, they were unable to navigate efficiently towards a goal in the absence of external information (for instance in the dark). This work highlights for the first time an unsuspected function of the cerebellum in shaping the representation of our body in space.

Bibliographic record

Christelle Rochefort, Arnaud Arabo, Marion André, Bruno Poucet, Etienne Save, and Laure Rondi-Reig: Cerebellum Shapes Hippocampal Spatial Code. Science, 21 October 2011: 385-389. DOI:10.1126/science.1207403

Internet: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/334/6054/385.full?sid=4b397dcb-4e01-4fbb-9168-...

Further Information

Dr. Marion André, Abteilung für Neurophysiologie, Medizinsche Fakultät der RUB und International Graduate School of Neuroscience (IGSN) der RUB, Tel. +49 234 32 22042

Prof. Dr. Denise Manahan-Vaughan, Leiterin des Lehrstuhls für Neurophysiologie und Direktorin/Studiendekanin der IGSN, Tel. +49 234 32 22042, denise.manahan-vaughan@rub.de

Editor: Jens Wylkop

Dr. Josef König | idw
Further information:
http://www.ruhr-uni-bochum.de/igsn/index.shtml

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Link Discovered between Immune System, Brain Structure and Memory
26.04.2017 | Universität Basel

nachricht Researchers develop eco-friendly, 4-in-1 catalyst
25.04.2017 | Brown University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

From volcano's slope, NASA instrument looks sky high and to the future

27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Control of molecular motion by metal-plated 3-D printed plastic pieces

27.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Move over, Superman! NIST method sees through concrete to detect early-stage corrosion

27.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>