Spinal reflexes provide motor error signals to cerebellar modules - relevance for motor coordination
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The cerebellar olivo-cortico-nuclear network influencing rubro- and corticospinal tracts via the nucleus interpositus anterior (NIA) is one of the most thoroughly characterized mammalian motor systems involved in limb movement control. Recent findings indicate that climbing fibres innervating the NIA system mediate highly integrated sensorimotor information derived from spinal withdrawal reflex modules. In the present paper, the implications of this relationship between spinal and cerebellar neuronal networks for cerebellar sensorimotor processing are put in perspective of the modular organization of the NIA system. Data that should prove useful for computational models of cerebellar sensorimotor processing and motor learning, including functional spino-olivo-cortico-nucleo-spinal connectivity, are reviewed. It is argued that spinal 'pre-processing' of climbing fibre input constitutes a signal conversion from 'sensory' to 'motor' coordinates, providing the cerebellar modules with motor error signals relevant to the action of single limb muscles. Drawing upon their patterns of interconnectivity with spinal reflex modules it is hypothesized how cerebellar modules may adaptively coordinate transitions between agonist and antagonist muscle activity. This mechanism would contribute to the generation of the triphasic EMG patterns that are necessary for smooth acceleration and deceleration of single-joint movements. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.