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The cerebellar granular layer appears especially well-suited for timing operations required to confer millisecond precision for cerebellar computations. This may be most evident in the manner the cerebellum controls the duration of the timing of agonist-antagonist EMG bursts associated with fast goal-directed voluntary movements. In concert with adaptive processes, interactions within the cerebellar cortex are sufficient to support sub-second timing. However, supra-second timing seems to require cortical and basal ganglia networks, perhaps operating in concert with Cerebellum. Additionally, sensory information such as an unexpected stimulus can be forwarded to the cerebellum via the climbing fiber system, providing a temporally constrained mechanism to adjust on-going behavior and modify future processing. Patients with cerebellar disorders exhibit impairments on a range of tasks that require precise timing, and recent evidence suggest that timing problems observed in other neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, essential tremor, and dystonia, may reflect disrupted interactions between the basal ganglia and cerebellum.
The complex concepts emerging from this consensus paper should provide a foundation for further discussion, helping identify basic research questions required to understand how the brain represents and utilizes time, as well as delineating ways in which this knowledge can help improve the lives of those with neurological conditions that disrupt this most elemental sense. The panel of experts agrees that timing control in the brain is a complex concept in whom cerebellar circuitry is deeply involved. The concept of a timing machine has now expanded to clinical disorders.
- Temporal processing
- Climbing fiber