Representation of limb kinematics in Purkinje cell simple spike discharge is conserved across multiple tasks

Angela L. Hewitt, Laurentiu S. Popa, Siavash Pasalar, Claudia M. Hendrix, Timothy J. Ebner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Encoding of movement kinematics in Purkinje cell simple spike discharge has important implications for hypotheses of cerebellar cortical function. Several outstanding questions remain regarding representation of these kinematic signals. It is uncertain whether kinematic encoding occurs in unpredictable, feedback-dependent tasks or kinematic signals are conserved across tasks. Additionally, there is a need to understand the signals encoded in the instantaneous discharge of single cells without averaging across trials or time. To address these questions, this study recorded Purkinje cell firing in monkeys trained to perform a manual random tracking task in addition to circular tracking and center-out reach. Random tracking provides for extensive coverage of kinematic workspaces. Direction and speed errors are significantly greater during random than circular tracking. Cross-correlation analyses comparing hand and target velocity profiles show that hand velocity lags target velocity during random tracking. Correlations between simple spike firing from 120 Purkinje cells and hand position, velocity, and speed were evaluated with linear regression models including a time constant, τ, as a measure of the firing lead/lag relative to the kinematic parameters. Across the population, velocity accounts for the majority of simple spike firing variability (63±30% of R adj 2), followed by position (28±24% of R adj 2) and speed (11±19% of R adj 2). Simple spike firing often leads hand kinematics. Comparison of regression models based on averaged vs. nonaveraged firing and kinematics reveals lower R adj 2 values for nonaveraged data; however, regression coefficients and τ values are highly similar. Finally, for most cells, model coefficients generated from random tracking accurately estimate simple spike firing in either circular tracking or center-out reach. These findings imply that the cerebellum controls movement kinematics, consistent with a forward internal model that predicts upcoming limb kinematics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2232-2247
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Cerebellum
  • Forward internal model
  • Manual tracking
  • Movement kinematics


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