Climbing fibers, the projections from the inferior olive to the cerebellar cortex, carry sensorimotor error and clock signals that trigger motor learning by controlling cerebellar Purkinje cell synaptic plasticity and discharge. Purkinje cells target the deep cerebellar nuclei, which are the output of the cerebellum and include an inhibitory GABAergic projection to the inferior olive. This pathway identifies a potential closed loop in the olivo-cortico-nuclear network. Therefore, sets of Purkinje cells may phasically control their own climbing fiber afferents. Here, using in vitro and in vivo recordings, we describe a genetically modified mouse model that allows the specific optogenetic control of Purkinje cell discharge. Tetrode recordings in the cerebellar nuclei demonstrate that focal stimulations of Purkinje cells strongly inhibit spatially restricted sets of cerebellar nuclear neurons. Strikingly, such stimulations trigger delayed climbing-fiber input signals in the stimulated Purkinje cells. Therefore, our results demonstrate that Purkinje cells phasically control the discharge of their own olivary afferents and thus might participate in the regulation of cerebellar motor learning.
Keywords: complex spikes; motor control; olivo-cerebellar loop.