The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience
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A central tenet of motor neuroscience is that the cerebellum learns from sensory prediction errors. Surprisingly, neuroimaging studies have not revealed definitive signatures of error processing in the cerebellum. Furthermore, neurophysiologic studies suggest an asymmetry, such that the cerebellum may encode errors arising from unexpected sensory events, but not errors reflecting the omission of expected stimuli. We conducted an imaging study to compare the cerebellar response to these two types of errors. Participants made fast out-and-back reaching movements, aiming either for an object that delivered a force pulse if intersected or for a gap between two objects, either of which delivered a force pulse if intersected. Errors (missing the target) could therefore be signaled either through the presence or absence of a force pulse. In an initial analysis, the cerebellar BOLD response was smaller on trials with errors compared with trials without errors. However, we also observed an error-related decrease in heart rate. After correcting for variation in heart rate, increased activation during error trials was observed in the hand area of lobules V and VI. This effect was similar for the two error types. The results provide evidence for the encoding of errors resulting from either the unexpected presence or unexpected absence of sensory stimulation in the human cerebellum.