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Physiol Bohemoslov. 1987;36(3):203-16.

Signal processing in cerebellar Purkinje cells.


Mechanisms and functional implications of signal processing in cerebellar Purkinje cells have been the subject of recent extensive investigations. Complex patterns of their planar dendritic arbor are analysed with computer-aided reconstructions and also topological analyses. Local computation may occur in Purkinje cell dendrites, but its extent is not clear at present. Synaptic transmission and electrical and ionic activity of Purkinje cell membrane have been revealed in detail, and related biochemical processes are being uncovered. A special type of synaptic plasticity is present in Purkinje cell dendrites; long-term depression (LTD) occurs in parallel fiber-Purkinje cell transmission when the parallel fibers are activated with a climbing fiber innervating that Purkinje cell. Evidence indicates that synaptic plasticity in Purkinje cells is due to sustained desensitization of Purkinje dendritic receptors to glutamate, which is a putative neurotransmitter of parallel fibers, and that conjunctive activation of a climbing fiber and parallel fibers leads to desensitization through enhanced intradendritic calcium concentration. A microzone of the cerebellar cortex is connected to an extracerebellar neural system through the inhibitory projection of Purkinje cells to a cerebellar or vestibular nuclear cell group. Climbing fiber afferents convey signals representing control errors in the performance of a neural system, and evoke complex spikes in Purkinje cells of the microzone connected to the neural system. Complex spikes would modify the performance of the microzone by producing LTD in parallel fiber-Purkinje cell synapses, and consequently would improve the overall performance of the neural system. The primary function of the cerebellum thus appears to be endowing adaptability to numerous neural control systems in the brain and spinal cord through error-triggered reorganization of the cerebellar cortical circuitry.

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