Climbing fiber (CF) triggered complex spikes (CS) are massive depolarization bursts in the cerebellar Purkinje cell (PC), showing several high frequency spikelet components (±600 Hz). Since its early observations, the CS is known to vary in shape. In this study we describe CS waveforms, extracellularly recorded in awake primates (Macaca mulatta) performing saccades. Every PC analyzed showed a range of CS shapes with profoundly different duration and number of spikelets. The initial part of the CS was rather constant but the later part differed greatly, with a pronounced jitter of the last spikelets causing a large variation in total CS duration. Waveforms did not effect the following pause duration in the simple spike (SS) train, nor were SS firing rates predictive of the waveform shapes or vice versa. The waveforms did not differ between experimental conditions nor was there a preferred sequential order of CS shapes throughout the recordings. Instead, part of their variability, the timing jitter of the CS's last spikelets, strongly correlated with interval length to the preceding CS: shorter CS intervals resulted in later appearance of the last spikelets in the CS burst, and vice versa. A similar phenomenon was observed in rat PCs recorded in vitro upon repeated extracellular stimulation of CFs at different frequencies in slice experiments. All together these results strongly suggest that the variability in the timing of the last spikelet is due to CS frequency dependent changes in PC excitability.
Keywords: Purkinje neuron; complex spike; monkey; saccades; waveform.