This proposal seeks partial support for a meeting on the Cerebellum as a part of a new Gordon Research Conference series to be held in Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire in August of 2011. The cerebellum is the brain structure that carries out the primary function of coordinating movement. Its dysfunction leads to movement disorders which invariably manifest as ataxia and dyskinesia and it has also been implicated in cognitive disorders such as autism and dyslexia. The purpose of the Cerebellum Gordon Research Conference (GRC) is to foster an active dialogue between the very different disciplines and fields that have the cerebellum in common. There is ample evidence that the various cerebellar fields have matured to the extent that facilitating cross-fertilization of ideas amongst them will translate into a significant increase in their rates of growth, and ultimately into a more complete understanding of cerebellar function in health, and dysfunction in disease. Such an advance will further our basic science knowledge of an important brain structure, and is also likely to provide clear targets for therapeutic interventions in cerebellar-induced movement and cognitive disorders. To achieve these goals the Cerebellum GRC will provide the opportunity for the attendees to benefit from over 40 oral presentations on cutting-edge research on the cerebellum given by the best cerebellar scientists and clinicians. In addition, all the attendees will have the opportunity of presenting their own work during one of the four poster sessions. Combined with the educational talks planned to inform the cerebellar community of the role of the cerebellum in various neurologic and mental disorders, the Cerebellum GRC will be an extremely invaluable opportunity for cerebellar scientists to exchange ideas and forge collaborations.
The cerebellum is involved in motor coordination and balance, and its dysfunction is implicated in numerous movement disorders. It is also thought that its dysfunction contributes to cognitive disorders such as dyslexia and autism spectrum disorders. The elegant anatomical circuit of the cerebellum is simple and its role as the neural substrate for certain forms of motor learning is identified. Similarly, cerebellar input-output pathways have been described in detail. Its architectural simplicity, known function and relative accessibility has fostered its scrutiny by neuroscientists from a wide range of disciplines. It is thus not surprising that many scientists believe that the cerebellum presents the best candidate for deciphering higher order brain function. What has been sorely missing to date, however, is a venue where cerebellar scientists from various disciplines gather and exchange information. Thus, while many of the neuroscientists have attended specialized meetings such as those focusing on synaptic transmission, neural circuits &plasticity, computational neurobiology, and even clinical meetings on movement disorders, there have been few (if any) opportunities to discuss the cerebellum as a brain structure responsible for motor coordination and cognition from molecules to behavior. The Cerebellum GRC aims to provide a venue to fill this void.