In vivo analysis of Purkinje cell firing properties during postnatal mouse development

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Jan 15;113(2):578-91. doi: 10.1152/jn.00586.2014. Epub 2014 Oct 29.


Purkinje cell activity is essential for controlling motor behavior. During motor behavior Purkinje cells fire two types of action potentials: simple spikes that are generated intrinsically and complex spikes that are induced by climbing fiber inputs. Although the functions of these spikes are becoming clear, how they are established is still poorly understood. Here, we used in vivo electrophysiology approaches conducted in anesthetized and awake mice to record Purkinje cell activity starting from the second postnatal week of development through to adulthood. We found that the rate of complex spike firing increases sharply at 3 wk of age whereas the rate of simple spike firing gradually increases until 4 wk of age. We also found that compared with adult, the pattern of simple spike firing during development is more irregular as the cells tend to fire in bursts that are interrupted by long pauses. The regularity in simple spike firing only reached maturity at 4 wk of age. In contrast, the adult complex spike pattern was already evident by the second week of life, remaining consistent across all ages. Analyses of Purkinje cells in alert behaving mice suggested that the adult patterns are attained more than a week after the completion of key morphogenetic processes such as migration, lamination, and foliation. Purkinje cell activity is therefore dynamically sculpted throughout postnatal development, traversing several critical events that are required for circuit formation. Overall, we show that simple spike and complex spike firing develop with unique developmental trajectories.

Keywords: cerebellum; circuitry; connectivity; motor function; postnatal; spikes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Anesthetics / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Cerebellum / drug effects
  • Cerebellum / growth & development*
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Microelectrodes
  • Purkinje Cells / drug effects
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Wakefulness / physiology


  • Anesthetics