Richard F. Thompson's cerebellar model of classical eyeblink conditioning high-lights Purkinje cells in cerebellar cortex and principal cells in the deep cerebellar nucleus as the integrating cells for acquisition of conditioned responses (CRs). CR acquisition is significantly slower in rabbits with lesions to cerebellar cortex and in Purkinje cell-deficient mice that lose all cerebellar cortical Purkinje cells. Purkinje cells are the largest neurons in the cerebellum and contribute significantly to cerebellar volume. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to assess cerebellar volume in humans. Cerebellar volume was related to eyeblink conditioning (400-ms delay procedure) in 8 adults (21-35 years) and compared to 8 older adults (77-95 years) tested previously (Woodruff-Pak, Goldenberg, Downey-Lamb, Boyko, & Lemieux, 2000). In the young adult sample, there was a high correlation between percentage of CRs in a session and cerebellar volume (corrected for total intracranial volume [TIV], r = .58, p = .066). There were statistically significant age differences in cerebellar volume, t(14) = 8.96, p < .001, and percentage of CRs, t(14) = 3.85, p < .002, but no age difference in TIV. Combining the young and older adult sample, the correlation between percentage of CRs and cerebellar volume (corrected for TIV) was .832 (p < .001). Cerebellar volume showed age-related deficits likely due to Purkinje cell loss. Individual differences in classical eyeblink conditioning are associated with differences in cerebellar volume, supporting Thompson's model of a cerebellar cortical role in facilitating this form of associative learning.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience