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Neuroscience. 2000;96(2):317-31.

Role of climbing fibers in determining the spatial patterns of activation in the cerebellar cortex to peripheral stimulation: an optical imaging study.

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  • 1Departments of Neuroscience and Neurosurgery, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis 55455, USA.


The spatial patterns of activation in the rat cerebellar cortex evoked by ipsilateral face stimulation were mapped using optical imaging based on the pH sensitive dye, Neutral Red. The aims of the study were to characterize the optical responses evoked by peripheral stimulation and test the hypothesis that the resultant parasagittal banding is due to climbing fiber activation. In the anesthetized rat Crus I and II of the cerebellar cortex were stained with Neutral Red. Epi-fluorescent changes produced by a train of stimuli (5-10s and 4-20 Hz) to the ipsilateral face were monitored in time using a fast, high resolution charge-coupled device camera. The patterns of activation were quantified using a two-dimensional fast Fourier transform analysis that removed signals with high spatial frequencies and minimized the contribution of horizontal structural elements (i.e. blood vessels). The dominant spatial pattern of activation evoked by face stimulation was that of parasagittal bands. The bands were highly frequency-dependent and were elicited most strongly by stimulus frequencies in the range of 6-8 Hz. There was a large fall-off in the response for frequencies above and below. The optical signal evoked by face stimulation built up over a period of 10s and then gradually decayed. Within a folium the individual parasagittal bands exhibited some frequency and temporal specificity. Stimulation of the contralateral inferior olive also resulted in the activation of parasagittal bands with characteristics similar to the bands evoked by face stimulation, including a preferred stimulus frequency which peaked at 10 Hz. Injection of lidocaine into the contralateral inferior olive blocked the parasagittal bands evoked by ipsilateral face stimulation, while control injections of saline had no effect. The results confirm that a parasagittal banding pattern is a dominant feature of the functional architecture of the cerebellar cortex. The parasagittal banding pattern observed with Neutral Red is due primarily to the activation of climbing fiber afferents. The frequency tuning of the responses, with the preference for peripheral stimuli of 6-8 Hz, is in agreement with previous findings that the inferior olive is inherently rhythmic. These observations support the hypothesis that inferior olivary neurons are dynamically coupled into groups that activate parasagittal bands of Purkinje cells in the cerebellar cortex. The frequency tuning also supports the hypothesis that the climbing fiber system is involved with timing. Activation of this afferent system may require stimuli with appropriate frequency content and stimuli synchronized to the rhythmicity of the inferior olive.

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