Inhibition of classically conditioned eyeblink responses by stimulation of the cerebellar cortex in the decerebrate cat

J Physiol. 1994 Apr 15;476(2):245-56. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1994.sp020127.


The purpose of the present study was to test the hypothesis that neurones in the anterior interpositus nucleus, under the control of Purkinje cells in the c1 and c3 zones of the cerebellar cortex, exert some control over classically conditioned responses. In particular, the experiments were designed to determine whether the cerebellar control of conditioned and unconditioned responses is different. The experiments were performed on cats decerebrated rostral to the red nucleus under halothane anaesthesia. The cats were conditioned using either a 1000 Hz tone or trains of stimuli through the skin of the proximal forelimb as the conditioned stimulus, and periorbital electrical stimulation as the unconditioned stimulus. A large proportion of the animals acquired conditioned responses at normal rates. It could be shown that these were true conditioned responses and did not result from sensitization or pseudoconditioning. For instance, unpaired presentations of conditioned and unconditioned stimuli caused rapid extinction. Cerebellar areas controlling eyeblink were identified by recording climbing fibre responses in the cerebellar cortex and recording EMG activity in the eyelid evoked by stimulation of the cerebellar cortex. When single shocks of 40-70 microA were applied to these areas during the emission of conditioned eyeblink responses, the latter were strongly inhibited. The inhibition had a latency of about 10 ms and a duration of 25-75 ms. It was shown that this inhibition of the conditioned responses was topographically specific and could only be evoked from cortical sites identified as controlling eyeblink. Stimulation of the periphery of an eyeblink area caused little or no inhibition. The effect of cortical stimulation on unconditioned reflex responses in the orbicularis oculi muscle was also tested. Some inhibition of unconditioned responses was observed, but quantitative analysis showed that this inhibition was considerably weaker than the corresponding inhibition of conditioned responses. The magnitude of the inhibition was determined for unconditioned responses of different sizes including responses which were weaker than the conditioned responses. It is concluded that conditioned eyeblink responses are under strong cerebellar control from areas in the c1 and c3 zones receiving climbing fibre input from the periorbital area. This effect is not likely to be due to a reduction in the background facilitation of facial motoneurones. In contrast, the weak inhibition of the unconditioned response was probably due to this mechanism. The results, therefore, suggest that the conditioned responses are dependent on the cerebellum in a way that is not true of unconditioned responses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blinking / physiology*
  • Cats
  • Cerebellar Cortex / physiology*
  • Conditioning, Classical / physiology*
  • Decerebrate State / psychology*
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electromyography
  • Extinction, Psychological