Functional aspects of network integration in the cerebellar cortex have been studied experimentally and modeled in much detail ever since the early work by theoreticians such as Marr, Albus and Braitenberg more than 40 years ago. In contrast, much less is known about cerebellar processing at the output stage, namely in the cerebellar nuclei (CN). Here, input from Purkinje cells converges to control CN neuron spiking via GABAergic inhibition, before the output from the CN reaches cerebellar targets such as the brainstem and the motor thalamus. In this article we review modeling studies that address how the CN may integrate cerebellar cortical inputs, and what kind of signals may be transmitted. Specific hypotheses in the literature contrast rate coding and temporal coding of information in the spiking output from the CN. One popular hypothesis states that post-inhibitory rebound spiking may be an important mechanism by which Purkinje cell inhibition is turned into CN output spiking, but this hypothesis remains controversial. Rate coding clearly does take place, but in what way it may be augmented by temporal codes remains to be more clearly established. Several candidate mechanisms distinct from rebound spiking are discussed, such as the significance of spike time correlations between Purkinje cell pools to determine CN spike timing, irregularity of Purkinje cell spiking as a determinant of CN firing rate, and shared brief pauses between Purkinje cell pools that may trigger individual CN spikes precisely.
Keywords: Compartmental model; Dynamic clamp; Neural coding; Purkinje cell; Rebound; STD.
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