Learning from Error: Defining how Cerebellar Circuits Drive Adaptation in a Changing World

2024 Scientific Innovations Award
Eiman Azim, Ph.D.
The Salk Institute for Biological Studies

The ability to move effectively through the world is one of the most important functions of the brain. However, the world and the body are constantly changing, meaning the signals the brain uses to move the body must adapt to shifting circumstances. One critical way the brain achieves this flexibility is by comparing what the brain predicts the body will do to what the body actually does. When mismatches are found, a process of learning occurs so that these errors are minimized in the future. Dr. Azim’s project will study the pathways in the brain that are responsible for detecting mismatches to drive this learning process. Diseases and injuries that affect a part of the brain called the cerebellum are known to disrupt our ability to adapt our movements to changing conditions, and a better understanding of the affected pathways in the brain can lead to improved diagnosis and repair. More broadly, a clearer picture of how neural circuits adapt to error can contribute to new approaches to treat disorders by engaging learning mechanisms in the brain.

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