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Neuroscience. 2011 May 19;182:11-31. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.03.014. Epub 2011 Mar 21.

Functional circuitry of a unique cerebellar specialization: the valvula cerebelli of a mormyrid fish.

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Department of Pediatrics and Neurosciences, Xijing Hospital, the Fourth Military Medical University, Xi'an, Shaanxi, PR China.


The valvula cerebelli of the mormyrid electric fish is a useful site for the study of cerebellar function. The valvula forms a part of the electrosensory-electromotor system of this fish, a system that offers many possibilities for the study of sensory-motor integration. The valvula also has a number of histological features not present in mammals which facilitate investigation of cerebellar circuitry and its plasticity. This initial study characterizes the basic physiology and pharmacology of cells in the valvula using an in vitro slice preparation. Intrinsic properties and synaptic responses of Purkinje cells and other cell types were examined. We found that Purkinje cells fire a small narrow Na(+) spike and a large broad Ca(2+) spike, generated in the axon initial segment and dendritic-soma region, respectively. Purkinje cells respond to parallel fiber inputs with graded excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) and to climbing fiber inputs with all-or-none EPSPs. Efferent cells, Golgi cells, and deep stellate cells all fire a single type of large narrow spike and respond only to parallel fiber inputs. Both parallel fiber and climbing fiber responses in Purkinje cells appear to be entirely mediated by AMPA-type glutamate receptors, whereas parallel fiber responses in efferent cells and stellate cells include AMPA and NMDA components. In addition, a strong synaptic inhibition was uncovered in both Purkinje cells and efferent cells in response to the focal stimulation of parallel fibers. Dual cell recordings indicate that deep stellate cells contribute at least partially to this inhibition. We conclude that despite its unique histology, the local functional circuitry of the mormyrid valvula cerebelli is largely similar to that of the mammalian cerebellum. Thus, what is learned concerning the functioning of the mormyrid valvula cerebelli may be expected to be informative about cerebellar function in general.

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