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J Neurophysiol. 2009 Jan;101(1):234-45. doi: 10.1152/jn.90829.2008. Epub 2008 Nov 5.

Low-frequency oscillations in the cerebellar cortex of the tottering mouse.

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Department of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota, Lions Research Building, Room 421, 2001 Sixth Street S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.


The tottering mouse is an autosomal recessive disorder involving a missense mutation in the gene encoding P/Q-type voltage-gated Ca2+ channels. The tottering mouse has a characteristic phenotype consisting of transient attacks of dystonia triggered by stress, caffeine, or ethanol. The neural events underlying these episodes of dystonia are unknown. Flavoprotein autofluorescence optical imaging revealed transient, low-frequency oscillations in the cerebellar cortex of anesthetized and awake tottering mice but not in wild-type mice. Analysis of the frequencies, spatial extent, and power were used to characterize the oscillations. In anesthetized mice, the dominant frequencies of the oscillations are between 0.039 and 0.078 Hz. The spontaneous oscillations in the tottering mouse organize into high power domains that propagate to neighboring cerebellar cortical regions. In the tottering mouse, the spontaneous firing of 83% (73/88) of cerebellar cortical neurons exhibit oscillations at the same low frequencies. The oscillations are reduced by removing extracellular Ca2+ and blocking L-type Ca2+ channels. The oscillations are likely generated intrinsically in the cerebellar cortex because they are not affected by blocking AMPA receptors or by electrical stimulation of the parallel fiber-Purkinje cell circuit. Furthermore, local application of an L-type Ca2+ agonist in the tottering mouse generates oscillations with similar properties. The beam-like response evoked by parallel fiber stimulation is reduced in the tottering mouse. In the awake tottering mouse, transcranial flavoprotein imaging revealed low-frequency oscillations that are accentuated during caffeine-induced attacks of dystonia. During dystonia, oscillations are also present in the face and hindlimb electromyographic (EMG) activity that become significantly coherent with the oscillations in the cerebellar cortex. These low-frequency oscillations and associated cerebellar cortical dysfunction demonstrate a novel abnormality in the tottering mouse. These oscillations are hypothesized to be involved in the episodic movement disorder in this mouse model of episodic ataxia type 2.

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