Potentiation of cerebellar Purkinje cells facilitates whisker reflex adaptation through increased simple spike activity

Elife. 2018 Dec 18;7:e38852. doi: 10.7554/eLife.38852.


Cerebellar plasticity underlies motor learning. However, how the cerebellum operates to enable learned changes in motor output is largely unknown. We developed a sensory-driven adaptation protocol for reflexive whisker protraction and recorded Purkinje cell activity from crus 1 and 2 of awake mice. Before training, simple spikes of individual Purkinje cells correlated during reflexive protraction with the whisker position without lead or lag. After training, simple spikes and whisker protractions were both enhanced with the spiking activity now leading behavioral responses. Neuronal and behavioral changes did not occur in two cell-specific mouse models with impaired long-term potentiation at their parallel fiber to Purkinje cell synapses. Consistent with cerebellar plasticity rules, increased simple spike activity was prominent in cells with low complex spike response probability. Thus, potentiation at parallel fiber to Purkinje cell synapses may contribute to reflex adaptation and enable expression of cerebellar learning through increases in simple spike activity.

Keywords: Purkinje cell; cerebellum; learning; motor control; mouse; neuroscience; plasticity; whiskers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Long-Term Potentiation / physiology
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Physical Stimulation
  • Purkinje Cells / physiology*
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Touch
  • Vibrissae / physiology*