The Emerging Concept of Intrinsic Plasticity: Activity-dependent Modulation of Intrinsic Excitability in Cerebellar Purkinje Cells and Motor Learning

Exp Neurobiol. 2018 Jun;27(3):139-154. doi: 10.5607/en.2018.27.3.139. Epub 2018 Jun 30.


What is memory? How does the brain process the sensory information and modify an organism's behavior? Many neuroscientists have focused on the activity- and experience-dependent modifications of synaptic functions in order to solve these fundamental questions in neuroscience. Recently, the plasticity of intrinsic excitability (called intrinsic plasticity) has emerged as an important element for information processing and storage in the brain. As the cerebellar Purkinje cells are the sole output neurons in the cerebellar cortex and the information is conveyed from a neuron to its relay neurons by forms of action potential firing, the modulation of the intrinsic firing activity may play a critical role in the cerebellar learning. Many voltage-gated and/or Ca2+-activated ion channels are involved in shaping the spiking output as well as integrating synaptic inputs to finely tune the cerebellar output. Recent studies suggested that the modulation of the intrinsic excitability and its plasticity in the cerebellar Purkinje cells might function as an integrator for information processing and memory formation. Moreover, the intrinsic plasticity might also determine the strength of connectivity to the sub-cortical areas such as deep cerebellar nuclei and vestibular nuclei to trigger the consolidation of the cerebellar-dependent memory by transferring the information.

Keywords: Cerebellum; Excitability; Ion channels; Learning; Neuronal plasticity; Purkinje cells.

Publication types

  • Review