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Continuous and real-time learning is a difficult problem in robotics. To learn efficiently, it is important to recognize the current situation and learn appropriately for that context. To be effective, this requires the integration of a large number of sensorimotor and cognitive signals. So far, few principles on how to perform this integration have been proposed. Another limitation is the difficulty to include the complete contextual information to avoid destructive interference while learning different tasks.We suggest that a vertebrate brain structure important for sensorimotor coordination, the cerebellum, may provide answers to these difficult problems. We investigate how learning in the input layer of the cerebellum may successfully encode contextual knowledge in a representation useful for coordination and life-long learning. We propose that a sparsely-distributed and statistically-independent representation provides a valid criterion for the self-organizing classification and integration of context signals. A biologically motivated unsupervised learning algorithm that approximate such a representation is derived from maximum likelihood. This representation is beneficial for learning in the cerebellum by simplifying the credit assignment problem between what must be learned and the relevant signals in the current context for learning it. Due to its statistical independence, this representation is also beneficial for life-long learning} by reducing the destructive interference across tasks, while retaining the ability to generalize. The benefits of the learning algorithm are investigated in a spiking model that learns to generate predictive smooth pursuit eye movements to follow target trajectories.