Parallel processing of internal and external feedback in the spinocerebellar system of primates

Oren Cohen, Ran Harel, Tim D. Aumann, Zvi Israel, Yifat Prut*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Cerebellar control of voluntary movements is achieved by the integration of external and internal feedback information to adjust and correct properly ongoing actions. In the forelimb of primates, rostral-spinocerebellar tract (RSCT) neurons are thought to integrate segmental, descending, and afferent sources and relay upstream a compound signal that contains both an efference copy of the spinal-level motor command and the state of the periphery. We tested this hypothesis by implanting stimulating electrodes in the superior cerebellar peduncle and recording the activity of cervical spinal neurons in primates. To dissociate motor commands and proprioceptive signals, we used a voluntary wrist task and applied external perturbations to the movement. We identified a large group of antidromically activated RSCT neurons located in deep dorsal sites and a smaller fraction of postsynaptically activated (PSA) cells located in intermediate and ventral laminae. RSCT cells received sensory input from broad, proximally biased receptive fields (RFs) and were not affected by applied wrist perturbations. PSA cells received sensory information from distal RFs and were more strongly related to active and passive movements. The anatomical and functional properties of RSCT and PSA cells suggest that descending signals converging on PSA cells contribute to both motor preparation and motor control. In parallel, RSCT neurons relay upstream an integrated signal that encodes the state of working muscles and can contribute to distal-to-proximal coordination of action. Thus the rostral spinocerebellar system sends upstream an efference copy of the motor command but does not signal abrupt errors in the performed movement. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Cerebellar coordination of voluntary movements relies on integrating feedback information to update motor output. With the use of a novel protocol, we identified spinal neurons constituting the ascending and descending components of the forelimb spinocerebellar system in behaving primates. The data suggest that descending information contributes to both motor preparation and execution, whereas ascending information conveys the spinal level motor command, such that internal and external feedback is relayed through parallel pathways.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)254-266
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 5 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 the American Physiological Society.


  • Motor control
  • Primates
  • Spinocerebellar
  • Voluntary movements


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