Theses Doctoral

Mechanisms for canceling self-generated sounds in a cerebellum-like circuit

Zhang, Qianyun

This thesis documents three main projects performed during my PhD. Chapter 3 describes a published project in which detailed behavioral analysis based on machine learning approaches for pose-estimation were used to characterize a novel sensorimotor transformation in which mice use whisker information to rapidly modify their gait in order to rapidly avoid an obstacle in their path (Warren et al., 2021).

I contributed to designing experiments, data collection and analysis related to this project spanning roughly from Aug. 2018 to Aug. 2019. Appendix 1 describes a follow-up study in which I performed multi-site silicon probe recordings and anatomical reconstruction of recording sites across the deep cerebellar nuclei in head-fixed mice performing the same obstacle avoidance behavior mentioned above. Data collection for this project spanned roughly from May 2019 to Jan. 2021. This data was initially analyzed in collaboration with Richard Warren and is currently being analyzed in collaboration with Ramin Kajeh in Dr. Larry Abbott’s group.

Finally, Chapter 2 reports on the major independent work undertaken as part of my thesis, spanning from Sept. 2021 to present. As such, the Introduction relates solely to Chapter 2. The goal of this ongoing project is to extend the Sawtell laboratory studies of the mechanisms for sensory prediction and cancellation in the cerebellum-like circuitry of the electrosensory lobe (ELL) of electric fish to a cerebellum-like circuit in mammals, the dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) in the auditory brainstem. In particular, my work provides initial insights into the function of the cartwheel cell (CWC), a previously enigmatic cell type that occupies a similar place in the circuitry of the dorsal cochlear nucleus as the Purkinje cell of the cerebellum and the medium ganglion (MG) cell of the ELL.

We have demonstrated that CWCs convey tonotopically-specific signals that are well-suited for canceling self-generated auditory responses in fusiform cells (FCs), the principal output cells in the DCN. Additionally, our findings reveal that the two characteristic types of spikes observed in CWCs—the axonal simple spikes (comparable to simple spikes in Purkinje cells and narrow spikes in MG cells) and dendritic complex spikes (similar to complex spikes in Purkinje cells and broad spikes in MG cells)—are distinctly modulated by both self-generated behavior and external acoustic stimuli, suggesting that these two types of spikes serve separate functional roles in the processing of the cancellation signal, as well as auditory information, within the DCN circuitry. This finding is consistent with the reported distinct functions of narrow and broad spikes in MG cells within the circuitry of the ELL, suggesting an evolutionarily conserved role of Purkinje-like cells in cerebellum-like circuits.


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2029-04-22.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Biological Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Sawtell, Nathaniel B.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 24, 2024