Abstract

The motor system includes structures distributed widely through the CNS, and in this feature article we present a scheme for how they might cooperate in the control of action. Distributed modules, which constitute the basic building blocks of our model, include recurrent loops connecting distant brain structures, as well as local circuitry that modulates loop activity. We consider interconnections among the basal ganglia, cerebellum, and cerebral cortex and the specialized properties of certain cell types within each of those structures, namely, striatal spiny neurons, cerebellar Purkinje cells, and neocortical pyramidal cells. In our model, striatal spiny neurons of the basal ganglia function in contextual pattern recognition under the training influence of reinforcement signals transmitted in dopamine fibers. Cerebellar Purkinje cells also function in pattern recognition, in their case to select and execute actions through training supervised by climbing fibers, which signal discoordination. Neocortical pyramidal cells perform collective computations learned through a local training mechanism and also function as information stores for other modular operations. We discuss how distributed modules might function in a parallel, cooperative manner to plan, modulate, and execute action.

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