Specificity of inferior olive response to stimulus timing

T. Liu, D. Xu, J. Ashe, K. Bushara

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The inferior olive is the sole source of the climbing fiber system, one of the two major afferent systems of the cerebellum; however, its exact role remains unknown. A longstanding hypothesis is that the inferior olive with its unique intrinsic rhythmic firing properties mediates motor timing. However, direct evidence linking the inferior olive to timing behavior has been difficult to demonstrate in animal or human studies likely due to the inhibition of inferior olive responses by self-produced movement. Here we used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and a perceptual task that dissociates the temporal from nontemporal attributes of sensory input. Subjects were asked to attend to rhythmically occurring identical visual stimuli and to detect a change in their timing, spatial orientation, or color. Inferior olive activation was seen only when perceiving a change in stimulus timing. These results are consistent with animal studies demonstrating that the inferior olive is especially sensitive to "unexpected" sensory events and further provide evidence supporting the specificity of the inferior olive response to stimulus timing. The results are consistent with the view that the inferior olive and the climbing fiber system mediate the encoding of temporal information required for both motor and nonmotor cognitive processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1557-1561
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2008
Externally publishedYes


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