Evaluating pattern separation in the cerebellar granule cell layer
We're very good at effortlessly sensing differences in the world, even when circumstances are complex. This is a critical skill, because our brains need to recognize subtle environmental differences so we can act appropriately in each unique situation. Thus, the cerebellum, which makes and stores associations between sensory context and motor output, is thought to somehow integrate and transform the diverse signals it receives from throughout the brain in a way that creates discernible representations for the multitude of unique contextual associations we learn throughout a lifetime. To determine if and how such representations are formed, Elizabeth Fleming is harnessing cutting edge tools that allow her to isolate neural representations of discrete sensory stimuli in the cerebellar input layer in the presence and absence of inhibition. These experiments comprise the first attempt to study how population responses in the input layer are shaped by inhibition and are likely to provide valuable insight into how the cerebellum enables associative motor learning that can be specific to even subtle differences in environmental stimuli.