Cerebellar ataxia is associated with an implicit motor learning dysfunction, specifically, a miscalibration of internal models relating motor commands to state changes of the body. Explicit cognitive strategies could compensate for deficits in implicit calibration. Surprisingly, however, patients with cerebellar ataxia use insufficient strategies compared to healthy controls. We report a candidate physiological phenomenon of disrupted strategy use in cerebellar ataxia, reflected in an interaction of implicit and explicit learning effects on cortical beta oscillations. We recorded electroencephalography in patients with cerebellar ataxia (n=18), age-matched healthy controls (n=19), and young, healthy individuals (n=34) during a visuomotor rotation paradigm in which an aiming strategy was either explicitly instructed, or had to be discovered through learning. In young, healthy individuals, learning a strategy, but not implicit learning from sensory prediction error alone, decreased the post-movement beta rebound. Disrupted learning from sensory prediction error in patients, on the other hand, unmasked effects of explicit and implicit control that are normally balanced. Specifically, the post-movement beta rebound increased during strategy use when implicit learning was disrupted, i.e., in patients, but not controls. We conclude that a network disturbance due to cerebellar degeneration surfaces in imbalanced cortical beta oscillations normally involved in strategy learning.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience