Indexed on: 28 Apr '09Published on: 28 Apr '09Published in: Learning & memory (Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.)
The role of the cerebellum in eyeblink conditioning is well established. Less work has been done to identify the necessary conditioned stimulus (CS) pathways that project sensory information to the cerebellum. A possible visual CS pathway has been hypothesized that consists of parallel inputs to the pontine nuclei from the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN), superior colliculus (SC), pretectal nuclei, and visual cortex (VCTX) as reported by Koutalidis and colleagues in an earlier paper. The following experiments examined whether electrical stimulation of neural structures in the putative visual CS pathway can serve as a sufficient CS for eyeblink conditioning in rats. Unilateral stimulation of the ventral LGN (Experiment 1), SC (Experiment 2), or VCTX (Experiment 3) was used as a CS paired with a periorbital shock unconditioned stimulus. Stimulation was delivered to the hemisphere contralateral to the conditioned eye. Rats in all experiments were given five 100-trial sessions of paired or unpaired eyeblink conditioning with the stimulation CS followed by three paired sessions with a light CS. Stimulation of each visual area when paired with the unconditioned stimulus supported acquisition of eyeblink conditioned responses (CRs) and substantial savings when switched to a light CS. The results provide evidence for a unilateral parallel visual CS pathway for eyeblink conditioning that includes the LGN, SC, and VCTX inputs to the pontine nuclei.