Increase in Purkinje cell gain associated with naturally activated climbing fiber input

Timothy J Ebner, X. Yu Qi, J. R. Bloedel

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These experiments were designed to test the hypothesis that climbing fiber inputs evoked by a peripheral stimulus increase the responsiveness of Purkinje cells to mossy fiber inputs. This hypothesis was based on a previous series of observations demonstrating that spontaneous climbing fiber inputs are associated with an accentuation of the Purkinje cell responses to subsequent mossy fiber inputs. Furthermore, short-term nonpersistent interactions between climbing and mossy fiber inputs have been an important aspect of many theories of cerebellar function. Extracellular unitary recordings were made from Purkinje cells in lobule V of decerebrate, unanesthetized cats. To activate mossy and climbing fiber inputs, the forepaw was passively flexed by a Ling vibrator system. A data analysis was developed to sort the simple spike trials into two groups, based on the presence or absence of complex spikes activated by the stimulus. In addition, during those trials in which complex spikes were activated, the simple spike train was aligned on the occurrence of the complex spike. For each simple spike response to the forepaw input, the average firing rate during the response was compared to background both in those trials in which complex spikes were activated and in those in which they were not. The ratio of the response amplitudes in the histograms constructed from these two groups of trials permitted a quantification of the change in responsiveness when climbing fiber inputs were activated. The results show that both excitatory and inhibitory simple spike responses are accentuated when associated with the activation of a complex spike. Using an arbitrary level of a gain change ratio of 120% as indicating a significant modification, 64% of the response components analyzed increased their amplitude when climbing fiber input was present. Simple spike response components occurring prior to complex spike activation were usually not accentuated, although in a few cells the amplitude of this component of the response increased. In addition, in a small number of cells the occurrence of complex spikes was associated with a new simple spike component. For excitatory responses, the magnitude of the gain change ratio was shown to be inversely related to the amplitude of the simple spike response evoked by the mossy fiber inputs. The data obtained is consistent with the hypothesis that the climbing fiber input is associated with an increase in the responsiveness of Purkinje cells to mossy fiber inputs. The increased responsiveness occurs whether the simple spike modulation evoked by the peripheral stimulus is excitatory or inhibitory. The change in responsiveness is short term and nonpersistent. It is argued that the activation of climbing fiber inputs to the cerebellar cortex is associated with an increase in the gain of Purkinje cells to mossy fiber inputs activated by natural peripheral stimuli.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)205-219
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1983


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