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J Physiol. 2006 Feb 1;570(Pt 3):501-6. Epub 2005 Dec 1.

Non-uniform olivocerebellar conduction time in the vermis of the rat cerebellum.

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Department of Anatomy, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DY, UK.

Erratum in

  • J Physiol. 2006 May 15;573(Pt 1):283.


It has been proposed that the conduction velocities of cerebellar climbing fibre (olivocerebellar) axons are tuned according to length, in order to precisely fix the conduction time between the inferior olive and cerebellar cortex. Some data conflict with this view. We have re-evaluated this issue using the climbing fibre reflex. The white matter of the tip of one folium in lobule VI or VII was stimulated electrically 0.5-1 mm below the surface and recordings were made from Purkinje cells in lobules VIII and IX. Reflex evoked climbing fibre (CF) responses (33 units) were recorded at different depths from Purkinje cells found in a narrow sagittal zone of cortex as complex spikes. The responses had latencies ranging from 4.3 ms to 11.3 ms. A consistent trend was that Purkinje cell responses recorded at greater depth had shorter CF reflex latencies than those recorded more superficially, both in individual experiments and in grouped data. These data show that the CF reflex latency is not constant, but is directly proportional to the distance an action potential has to travel along a CF. These data are not consistent with tuning of CF conduction velocities to normalize olivocerebellar conduction time, but are consistent with a CF conduction velocity in the cortex of approximately 0.6 m s-1. This suggests that climbing fibres projecting to different parts of the cerebellar cortex may have differences in spike conduction time of a few milliseconds, and that submillisecond precision is not an important element of the climbing fibre signal.

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