Experience-dependent changes of spine structure and number may contribute to long-term memory storage. Although several studies demonstrated structural spine plasticity following associative learning, there is limited evidence associating motor learning with alteration of spine morphology. Here, we investigated this issue in the cerebellar Purkinje cells using high voltage electron microscopy (HVEM). Adult rats were trained in an obstacle course, demanding significant motor coordination to complete. Control animals either traversed an obstacle-free runway or remained sedentary. Quantitative analysis of spine morphology showed that the density and length of dendritic spines along the distal dendrites of Purkinje cells were significantly increased in the rats that learned complex motor skills compared to active or inactive controls. Classification of spines into shape categories indicated that the increased spine density and length after motor learning was mainly attributable to an increase in thin spines. These findings suggest that motor learning induces structural spine plasticity in the cerebellar Purkinje neurons, which may play a crucial role in acquiring complex motor skills.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Dr. William T. Greenough for critically reading the manuscript and comments; electron microscopy team at Korea Basic Science Institute (KBSI, Daejeon, Republic of Korea); Scott P. Herrick, Sang Hoon Lee, and In Sung Park for their valuable contributions to this research. This work was supported by the Korea Research Foundation Grant funded by the Korean Government (MOEHRD, Basic Research Promotion Fund) (KRF-2006-E0008) and partly supported by the cooperating program of the National Institute for Physiological Sciences (under the codes of 02-HVEM10, 04-HVEM12, 05-HVEM08, and 06-HVEM01).
- Motor coordination
- Spine shape
- Synaptic plasticity
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Behavioral Neuroscience