The cerebellum, and the olivo-cerebellar system in particular, may be the central mechanism of a neural clock that provides a rhythmic neural signal used to time motor and cognitive processes. Several independent lines of evidence support this hypothesis. First, the resting membrane potential of neurons in the inferior olive oscillates at ~10 Hz and the neural input from the olive leads to rhythmic complex spikes in cerebellum Purkinje cells. Second, the repeating modular microstructure of the cerebellum is ideally suited for performing computations underlying a basic neural process such as timing. Third, damage to the cerebellum leads to deficits in the perception of time and in the production of timed movements. Fourth, functional imaging studies in human subjects have shown activation of the inferior olive specifically during time perception. However, additional data on the exact role of rhythmic cerebellar activity during basis motor and sensory processing will be necessary before the hypothesis that the cerebellum is a neural clock is more widely accepted.
- Inferior olive
- Motor control