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J Neurosci. 2005 Jan 12;25(2):454-63.

Axonal propagation of simple and complex spikes in cerebellar Purkinje neurons.

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Institute for Neuroscience, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 60208, USA.


In cerebellar Purkinje neurons, the reliability of propagation of high-frequency simple spikes and spikelets of complex spikes is likely to regulate inhibition of Purkinje target neurons. To test the extent to which a one-to-one correspondence exists between somatic and axonal spikes, we made dual somatic and axonal recordings from Purkinje neurons in mouse cerebellar slices. Somatic action potentials were recorded with a whole-cell pipette, and the corresponding axonal signals were recorded extracellularly with a loose-patch pipette. Propagation of spontaneous and evoked simple spikes was highly reliable. At somatic firing rates of approximately 200 spikes/sec, <10% of spikes failed to propagate, with failures becoming more frequent only at maximal somatic firing rates (approximately 260 spikes/sec). Complex spikes were elicited by climbing fiber stimulation, and their somatic waveforms were modulated by tonic current injection, as well as by paired stimulation to depress the underlying EPSCs. Across conditions, the mean number of propagating action potentials remained just above two spikes per climbing fiber stimulation, but the instantaneous frequency of the propagating spikes changed, from approximately 375 Hz during somatic hyperpolarizations that silenced spontaneous firing to approximately 150 Hz during spontaneous activity. The probability of propagation of individual spikelets could be described quantitatively as a saturating function of spikelet amplitude, rate of rise, or preceding interspike interval. The results suggest that ion channels of Purkinje axons are adapted to produce extremely short refractory periods and that brief bursts of forward-propagating action potentials generated by complex spikes may contribute transiently to inhibition of postsynaptic neurons.

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