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J Neurophysiol. 2007 Apr;97(4):2590-604. Epub 2007 Jan 31.

Climbing fiber discharge regulates cerebellar functions by controlling the intrinsic characteristics of purkinje cell output.

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  • 1Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, 3330 Hospital Dr. N.W., Calgary, Alberta T2N 4N1, Canada.


The contribution of Purkinje cells to cerebellar motor coordination and learning is determined in part by the chronic and acute effects of climbing fiber (CF) afferents. Whereas the chronic effects of CF discharge, such as the depression of conjunctive parallel fiber (PF) inputs, are well established, the acute cellular functions of CF discharge remain incompletely understood. In rat cerebellar slices, we show that CF discharge presented at physiological frequencies substantially modifies the frequency and pattern of Purkinje cell spike output in vitro. Repetitive CF discharge converts a spontaneous trimodal pattern of output characteristic of Purkinje cells in vitro to a more naturalistic nonbursting pattern consisting of spike trains interrupted by short CF-evoked pauses or longer pauses associated with state transitions. All effects of CF discharge could be reproduced in the presence of synaptic blockers by using current injections to simulate complex spike depolarizations, revealing that CF-evoked changes in Purkinje cell output can occur independently of network activation. Rather postsynaptic changes are sufficient to account for the CF-evoked block of trimodal activity and include at least the activation of Ca(2+)-dependent K(+) channels. Furthermore by controlling the frequency of Purkinje cell spike output over three discrete firing levels, CF discharge modulates the gain of Purkinje cell responsiveness to PF inputs in vitro through postsynaptic mechanisms triggered by the complex spike depolarization. The ability for CF discharge to acutely modulate diverse aspects of Purkinje cell output provides important insights into the probable cellular factors contributing to motor disturbances following CF denervation.

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