Differential Purkinje cell simple spike activity and pausing behavior related to cerebellar modules

J Neurophysiol. 2015 Apr 1;113(7):2524-36. doi: 10.1152/jn.00925.2014. Epub 2015 Feb 25.


The massive computational capacity of the cerebellar cortex is conveyed by Purkinje cells onto cerebellar and vestibular nuclei neurons through their GABAergic, inhibitory output. This implies that pauses in Purkinje cell simple spike activity are potentially instrumental in cerebellar information processing, but their occurrence and extent are still heavily debated. The cerebellar cortex, although often treated as such, is not homogeneous. Cerebellar modules with distinct anatomical connectivity and gene expression have been described, and Purkinje cells in these modules also differ in firing rate of simple and complex spikes. In this study we systematically correlate, in awake mice, the pausing in simple spike activity of Purkinje cells recorded throughout the entire cerebellum, with their location in terms of lobule, transverse zone, and zebrin-identified cerebellar module. A subset of Purkinje cells displayed long (>500-ms) pauses, but we found that their occurrence correlated with tissue damage and lower temperature. In contrast to long pauses, short pauses (<500 ms) and the shape of the interspike interval (ISI) distributions can differ between Purkinje cells of different lobules and cerebellar modules. In fact, the ISI distributions can differ both between and within populations of Purkinje cells with the same zebrin identity, and these differences are at least in part caused by differential synaptic inputs. Our results suggest that long pauses are rare but that there are differences related to shorter intersimple spike intervals between and within specific subsets of Purkinje cells, indicating a potential further segregation in the activity of cerebellar Purkinje cells.

Keywords: Purkinje cell; cerebellar modules; pausing; simple spikes; zebrin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology*