Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Get lost easily? The cerebellum is your navigation assistant

Date:
November 3, 2011
Source:
Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum
Summary:
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 neurons. 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, new research shows.

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 neurons. 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 Andrι 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. Rochefort, A. Arabo, M. Andre, B. Poucet, E. Save, L. Rondi-Reig. Cerebellum Shapes Hippocampal Spatial Code. Science, 2011; 334 (6054): 385 DOI: 10.1126/science.1207403

Cite This Page:

Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. "Get lost easily? The cerebellum is your navigation assistant." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 November 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111103081402.htm>.
Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. (2011, November 3). Get lost easily? The cerebellum is your navigation assistant. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111103081402.htm
Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. "Get lost easily? The cerebellum is your navigation assistant." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/11/111103081402.htm (accessed August 22, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Friday, August 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Lost Brain Cells To Blame For Sleep Problems Among Seniors

Newsy (Aug. 21, 2014) — According to a new study, elderly people might have trouble sleeping because of the loss of a certain group of neurons in the brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Do More Wedding Guests Make A Happier Marriage?

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — A new study found couples who had at least 150 guests at their weddings were more likely to report being happy in their marriages. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

Charter Schools Alter Post-Katrina Landscape

AP (Aug. 20, 2014) — Nine years after Hurricane Katrina, charter schools are the new reality of public education in New Orleans. The state of Louisiana took over most of the city's public schools after the killer storm in 2005. (Aug. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

Researcher Testing on-Field Concussion Scanners

AP (Aug. 19, 2014) — Four Texas high school football programs are trying out an experimental system designed to diagnose concussions on the field. The technology is in response to growing concern over head trauma in America's most watched sport. (Aug. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins