Diverse Neuron Properties and Complex Network Dynamics in the Cerebellar Cortical Inhibitory Circuit

Front Mol Neurosci. 2019 Nov 7;12:267. doi: 10.3389/fnmol.2019.00267. eCollection 2019.


Neuronal inhibition can be defined as a spatiotemporal restriction or suppression of local microcircuit activity. The importance of inhibition relies in its fundamental role in shaping signal processing in single neurons and neuronal circuits. In this context, the activity of inhibitory interneurons proved the key to endow networks with complex computational and dynamic properties. In the last 50 years, the prevailing view on the functional role of cerebellar cortical inhibitory circuits was that excitatory and inhibitory inputs sum spatially and temporally in order to determine the motor output through Purkinje cells (PCs). Consequently, cerebellar inhibition has traditionally been conceived in terms of restricting or blocking excitation. This assumption has been challenged, in particular in the cerebellar cortex where all neurons except granule cells (and unipolar brush cells in specific lobules) are inhibitory and fire spontaneously at high rates. Recently, a combination of electrophysiological recordings in vitro and in vivo, imaging, optogenetics and computational modeling, has revealed that inhibitory interneurons play a much more complex role in regulating cerebellar microcircuit functions: inhibition shapes neuronal response dynamics in the whole circuit and eventually regulate the PC output. This review elaborates current knowledge on cerebellar inhibitory interneurons [Golgi cells, Lugaro cells (LCs), basket cells (BCs) and stellate cells (SCs)], starting from their ontogenesis and moving up to their morphological, physiological and plastic properties, and integrates this knowledge with that on the more renown granule cells and PCs. We will focus on the circuit loops in which these interneurons are involved and on the way they generate feed-forward, feedback and lateral inhibition along with complex spatio-temporal response dynamics. In this perspective, inhibitory interneurons emerge as the real controllers of cerebellar functioning.

Keywords: cellular neurophysiology; cerebellar cortex; dynamic properties; inhibitory interneurons; synaptic inhibition.