Two types of neurons in the rat cerebellar nuclei as distinguished by membrane potentials and intracellular fillings

J Neurophysiol. 2001 May;85(5):2017-29. doi: 10.1152/jn.2001.85.5.2017.


Classically, three classes of neurons in the cerebellar nuclei (CN), defined by different projection targets and content of transmitters, have been distinguished. However, evidence for different types of neurons based on different intrinsic properties is lacking. The present study reports two types of neurons defined mainly by their intrinsic properties, as determined by whole-cell patch recordings. The majority of cells (type I, n = 63) showed cyclic burst firing whereas a small subset (type II, n = 7) did not. Burst firing was used to distinguish the two types of neurons because, as it turned out, pharmacological interference could not be used to convert the non-bursting cells to bursting ones. Some of the membrane potentials exclusively present in type I neurons, such as sodium and calcium plateau potentials, low-threshold calcium spikes, and a slow calcium-dependent afterhyperpolarization, were found to contribute to the generation of burst firing. Other membrane potentials of type I neurons were not obviously related to the generation of bursts. These were 1) the lower amplitude and width of the action potential during spontaneous activity, 2) a sequence of afterhyperpolarization-afterdepolarization-afterhyperpolarization following each spike, and 3) the high spontaneous firing rate. In contrast, type II neurons lacked slow plateau potentials and low threshold spikes. Their action potentials showed higher amplitude and width and were followed by a single deep afterhyperpolarization. Furthermore, they showed a lower firing rate at rest. In both types of neurons, a delayed inward rectification was present. Neurons filled with neurobiotin revealed that the sizes of the somata and dendritic fields of type I neurons comprised the whole range known from Golgi studies, whereas those of the few type II neurons recovered were found to be in the lowest range. In view of their size and scarcity, we propose that type II neurons may correspond to CN interneurons.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Biotin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Biotin / analysis
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Cerebellar Nuclei / cytology*
  • Cobalt / pharmacology
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Interneurons / cytology
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Ion Transport / drug effects
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Neurons / classification*
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sodium / physiology
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology


  • neurobiotin
  • Cobalt
  • Tetrodotoxin
  • Biotin
  • Sodium
  • Calcium