It regulates the automation of our movements and as a result the cerebrum can perform other tasks. However, how the cerebellum performs this task is not clear. Dutch researcher Angelique Pijpers reconstructed a part of cerebellar functioning in rats and investigated how it mediates in the control of hind limb muscles. Such research might in future provide a better understanding of how the elderly move.
Pijpers and her colleagues investigated which processes took place inside and outside of the cerebellum: how does it channel information and process this into a signal to the muscles? Subsequently they investigated which parts of the cerebellum are involved in regulating the activity of a single muscle. Furthermore, they examined the consequences of inactivation of one or more parts of the cerebellum on the functioning of this muscle.
Nerve cells in the cerebellum receive two types of signals. Through the climbing fibres, signals from a specific structure in the brain stem are transmitted to Purkinje cells located in the cerebellar cortex. Mossy fibres transmit signals from various parts of the central nervous system to the granule cells of the cerebellar cortex.
Pijpers reconstructed the modular anatomy of the cerebellum by injecting small quantities of traceable substances. This allowed mapping of different 'stations' of the information pathway. The reconstruction revealed that the cerebellum is organised into a number of modules or connections aligned in parallel. Up until now it had been thought that the climbing fibre and mossy fibre systems were organised in completely different manners. However, according to Pijpers they also exhibit similarities.
By injecting a viral tracer agent in various muscles, the researcher traced the cerebellar modules involved in the control of a single muscle. She then inactivated one of the modules by injecting a neurotoxin. The rat's ability to walk was scarcely altered but there was a strong decrease in its ability to respond quickly to obstacles in a reflexive manner. This revealed that specific modules of the cerebellum mainly regulate reflex functions during walking and match these to the situation.
Consequences for the elderly
Pijpers' research opens up new possibilities for further research into the role of the cerebellum in the control of movements. Results from follow-up studies could be important for research into how the elderly move. For example, the increased risk of falls in the elderly is often associated with physical limitations. According to Pijpers this could also be a linked to cerebellar functioning, since certain parts of the cerebellum appear to decrease as we get older.
Angelique Pijpers' research was funded by NWO.
Dr Angelique Pijpers | alfa
Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator
23.02.2018 | University of Turku
Minimising risks of transplants
22.02.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg
A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.
In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...
A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.
By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy