Synchronization of golgi and granule cell firing in a detailed network model of the cerebellar granule cell layer

J Neurophysiol. 1998 Nov;80(5):2521-37. doi: 10.1152/jn.1998.80.5.2521.


The granular layer of the cerebellum has a disproportionately large number of excitatory (granule cells) versus inhibitory neurons (Golgi cells). Its synaptic organization is also unique with a dense reciprocal innervation between granule and Golgi cells but without synaptic contacts among the neurons of either population. Physiological recordings of granule or Golgi cell activity are scarce, and our current thinking about the way the granular layer functions is based almost exclusively on theoretical considerations. We computed the steady-state activity of a large-scale model of the granular layer of the rat cerebellum. Within a few tens of milliseconds after the start of random mossy fiber input, the populations of Golgi and granule cells became entrained in a single synchronous oscillation, the basic frequency of which ranged from 10 to 40 Hz depending on the average rate of firing in the mossy fiber population. The long parallel fibers ensured, through alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid-mediated synapses, a coherent excitation of Golgi cells, while the regular firing of each Golgi cell synchronized all granule cells within its axonal radius through transient activation of their gamma-aminobutyric acid-A (GABAA) receptor synapses. Individual granule cells often remained silent during a few successive oscillation cycles so that their average firing rates, which could be quite variable, reflected the average activities of their mossy fiber afferents. The synchronous, rhythmic firing pattern was robust over a broad range of biologically realistic parameter values and to parameter randomization. Three conditions, however, made the oscillations more transient and could desynchronize the entire network in the end: a very low mossy fiber activity, a very dominant excitation of Golgi cells through mossy fiber synapses (rather than through parallel fiber synapses), and a tonic activation of granule cell GABAA receptors (with an almost complete absence of synaptically induced inhibitory postsynaptic currents). These three conditions were associated with a reduction in the parallel fiber activity, and synchrony could be restored by increasing the mossy fiber firing rate. The model predicts that, under conditions of strong mossy fiber input to the cerebellum, Golgi cells do not only control the strength of parallel fiber activity but also the timing of the individual spikes. Provided that their parallel fiber synapses constitute an important source of excitation, Golgi cells fire rhythmically and synchronized with granule cells over large distances along the parallel fiber axis. According to the model, the granular layer of the cerebellum is desynchronized when the mossy fiber firing rate is low.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cerebellum / cytology
  • Cerebellum / physiology*
  • Cerebellum / ultrastructure
  • Feedback / physiology
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Fibers / physiology
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurons / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Synapses / physiology