Collaborative Resources for
Learning Developmental Biology
Collaborative Resources for Learning Developmental Biology
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Mouse Cerebellum
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Roy Sillitoe

Additional Author(s): Joshua White

Published on SDB CoRe: Aug 28 2012

Embryonic Patterning: Segmentation
Morphogenesis: Cell Movements
Ectoderm-derived: Nervous System
Organism: Mouse
Stage of Development: Adult

Object Description

The cerebellum is a region of the brain essential for controlling movement, balance, learning, proprioception and cognition. Pictured here is a whole mount dorsal view of an adult mouse cerebellum (a) revealing the gross anatomical divisions of the medial-lateral and anterior-posterior axes. A sagittal section of the cerebellar vermis shows the stereotypical foliation pattern of the ten lobules as well as four transverse domains that comprise unique functional circuits (b).

WIREs Dev Biol 2012. DOI: 10.1002/wdev.65

Cerebellum Anatomy

Brain structure and function are intimately linked by genetic mechanisms. Gene function establishes precise cellular and molecular patterns that determine brain architecture. In the cerebellum, the development of complex circuit patterns and an intricately folded morphology are essential for establishing sensory, motor, and cognitive functions. The gross anatomy (a) and internal cellular composition of the cerebellum are well conserved amongst mammals. Ten folds called lobules are arranged along the anterior-posterior axis and by convention are identified with Roman numerals (b). In addition, the medial-lateral axis may be broadly divided into four parts: a central vermis, large hemispheres located laterally, and the flocculi/paraflocculi tucked underneath each hemisphere. The folds in the hemispheres are unique compared to the vermis and include the lobulus simplex (LS), crus I, crus II, paramedian lobule (PML), and the copula pyramidis (COP). Formation of the cerebellar anatomical divisions begins during late embryogenesis and continues into early postnatal development. The embryonic cerebellum is initially smooth but rapidly transforms into complex lobules and medial-lateral regions through a series of dramatic cellular movements that are largely complete by two weeks of age. In the adult, the lobules may be grouped into four transverse domains that have unique gene expression profiles and sensory circuit connections. For example, the anterior domain of the vermis (lobules I-V) receives spinal projections that terminate upon specific zones of Purkinje cells. In contrast, the nodular domain (lobules IX-X) receives vestibular projections that terminate on a different set of Purkinje cell zones. Together, cerebellar anatomy, gene patterning and circuit formation provide powerful model systems for elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms that establish functional organ systems.


White, J.J., Sillitoe, R.V. Development of the cerebellum:from gene expression patterns to circuit maps. WIREs Dev Biol, 2012, Published Online: May 07 2012.

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