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J Neurophysiol. 2006 Jun;95(6):3414-25. Epub 2006 Apr 26.

Functional unity of the ponto-cerebellum: evidence that intrapontine communication is mediated by a reciprocal loop with the cerebellar nuclei.

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Abteilung für Kognitive Neurologie, Hertie Institut für Klinische Hirnforschung, Universität Tübingen, Otfried Müller Str. 27, 72076 Tübingen, Germany.


The majority of cerebral signals destined for the cerebellum are handed over by the pontine nuclei (PN), which thoroughly reorganize the neocortical topography. The PN maps neocortical signals of wide-spread origins into adjacent compartments delineated by spatially precise distribution of cortical terminals and postsynaptic dendrites. We asked whether and how signals interact on the level of the PN. Intracellular fillings of rat PN cells in vitro did not reveal any intrinsic axonal branching neither within the range of the cells' dendrites nor farther away. Furthermore, double whole cell patch recordings did not show any signs of interaction between neighboring pontine cells. Using simultaneous unit recording in the PN and cerebellar nuclei (CN) in rats in vivo, we investigated whether PN compartments interact via extrinsic reciprocal connections with the CN. Repetitive electrical stimulation of the cerebral peduncle of < or = 40 Hz readily evoked rapid sequential activation of PN and CN, demonstrating a direct connection between the structures. Stimulation of the PN gray matter led to responses in neurons < or = 600 microm away from the stimulation site at latencies compatible with di- or polysynaptic pathways via the CN. Importantly, these interactions were spatially discontinuous around the stimulation electrode suggesting that reciprocal PN-CN loops in addition reflect the compartmentalized organization of the PN. These findings are in line with the idea that the cerebellum makes use of the compartmentalized map in the PN to orchestrate the composition of its own neocortical input.

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