Complex motor skill learning, but not mere motor activity, leads to an increase in synapse number within the cerebellar cortex. The present experiment used quantitative electron microscopy to determine which synapse types were altered in number. Adult female rats were allocated to either an acrobatic condition (AC), a voluntary exercise condition (VX), or an inactive condition (IC). AC animals were trained to traverse an elevated obstacle course requiring substantial motor coordination to complete. VX animals were housed with unlimited access to running wheels and IC animals received no motor training but were handled briefly each day. Results showed the AC animals to have significantly more parallel fiber to Purkinje cell synapses than both the VX and IC animals. No other synapse type was significantly altered. Thus, the learning-dependent increase in synapse number observed within the cerebellar cortex is accomplished primarily through the addition of parallel fiber synapses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience