Cerebellar Nuclear Neurons Use Time and Rate Coding to Transmit Purkinje Neuron Pauses.
ABSTRACT: Neurons of the cerebellar nuclei convey the final output of the cerebellum to their targets in various parts of the brain. Within the cerebellum their direct upstream connections originate from inhibitory Purkinje neurons. Purkinje neurons have a complex firing pattern of regular spikes interrupted by intermittent pauses of variable length. How can the cerebellar nucleus process this complex input pattern? In this modeling study, we investigate different forms of Purkinje neuron simple spike pause synchrony and its influence on candidate coding strategies in the cerebellar nuclei. That is, we investigate how different alignments of synchronous pauses in synthetic Purkinje neuron spike trains affect either time-locking or rate-changes in the downstream nuclei. We find that Purkinje neuron synchrony is mainly represented by changes in the firing rate of cerebellar nuclei neurons. Pause beginning synchronization produced a unique effect on nuclei neuron firing, while the effect of pause ending and pause overlapping synchronization could not be distinguished from each other. Pause beginning synchronization produced better time-locking of nuclear neurons for short length pauses. We also characterize the effect of pause length and spike jitter on the nuclear neuron firing. Additionally, we find that the rate of rebound responses in nuclear neurons after a synchronous pause is controlled by the firing rate of Purkinje neurons preceding it.
Project description:The plasticity of intrinsic excitability has been described in several types of neurons, but the significance of non-synaptic mechanisms in brain plasticity and learning remains elusive. Cerebellar Purkinje cells are inhibitory neurons that spontaneously fire action potentials at high frequencies and regulate activity in their target cells in the cerebellar nuclei by generating a characteristic spike burst-pause sequence upon synaptic activation. Using patch-clamp recordings from mouse Purkinje cells, we find that depolarization-triggered intrinsic plasticity enhances spike firing and shortens the duration of spike pauses. Pause plasticity is absent from mice lacking SK2-type potassium channels (SK2(-/-) mice) and in occlusion experiments using the SK channel blocker apamin, while apamin wash-in mimics pause reduction. Our findings demonstrate that spike pauses can be regulated through an activity-dependent, exclusively non-synaptic, SK2 channel-dependent mechanism and suggest that pause plasticity-by altering the Purkinje cell output-may be crucial to cerebellar information storage and learning.
Project description:Cerebellar Purkinje cells mediate accurate eye movement coordination. However, it remains unclear how oculomotor adaptation depends on the interplay between the characteristic Purkinje cell response patterns, namely tonic, bursting, and spike pauses. Here, a spiking cerebellar model assesses the role of Purkinje cell firing patterns in vestibular ocular reflex (VOR) adaptation. The model captures the cerebellar microcircuit properties and it incorporates spike-based synaptic plasticity at multiple cerebellar sites. A detailed Purkinje cell model reproduces the three spike-firing patterns that are shown to regulate the cerebellar output. Our results suggest that pauses following Purkinje complex spikes (bursts) encode transient disinhibition of target medial vestibular nuclei, critically gating the vestibular signals conveyed by mossy fibres. This gating mechanism accounts for early and coarse VOR acquisition, prior to the late reflex consolidation. In addition, properly timed and sized Purkinje cell bursts allow the ratio between long-term depression and potentiation (LTD/LTP) to be finely shaped at mossy fibre-medial vestibular nuclei synapses, which optimises VOR consolidation. Tonic Purkinje cell firing maintains the consolidated VOR through time. Importantly, pauses are crucial to facilitate VOR phase-reversal learning, by reshaping previously learnt synaptic weight distributions. Altogether, these results predict that Purkinje spike burst-pause dynamics are instrumental to VOR learning and reversal adaptation.
Project description:An unusual feature of the cerebellar cortex is that its output neurons, Purkinje cells, release GABA (?-aminobutyric acid). Their high intrinsic firing rates (50?Hz) and extensive convergence predict that their target neurons in the cerebellar nuclei would be largely inhibited unless Purkinje cells pause their spiking, yet Purkinje and nuclear neuron firing rates do not always vary inversely. One indication of how these synapses transmit information is that populations of Purkinje neurons synchronize their spikes during cerebellar behaviours. If nuclear neurons respond to Purkinje synchrony, they may encode signals from subsets of inhibitory inputs. Here we show in weanling and adult mice that nuclear neurons transmit the timing of synchronous Purkinje afferent spikes, owing to modest Purkinje-to-nuclear convergence ratios (?40:1), fast inhibitory postsynaptic current kinetics (?(decay) = 2.5?ms) and high intrinsic firing rates (?90?Hz). In vitro, dynamically clamped asynchronous inhibitory postsynaptic potentials mimicking Purkinje afferents suppress nuclear cell spiking, whereas synchronous inhibitory postsynaptic potentials entrain nuclear cell spiking. With partial synchrony, nuclear neurons time-lock their spikes to the synchronous subpopulation of inputs, even when only 2 out of 40 afferents synchronize. In vivo, nuclear neurons reliably phase-lock to regular trains of molecular layer stimulation. Thus, cerebellar nuclear neurons can preferentially relay the spike timing of synchronized Purkinje cells to downstream premotor areas.
Project description:Many theories of cerebellar function assume that long-term depression (LTD) of parallel fiber (PF) synapses enables Purkinje cells to learn to recognize PF activity patterns. We have studied the LTD-based recognition of PF patterns in a biophysically realistic Purkinje-cell model. With simple-spike firing as observed in vivo, the presentation of a pattern resulted in a burst of spikes followed by a pause. Surprisingly, the best criterion to distinguish learned patterns was the duration of this pause. Moreover, our simulations predicted that learned patterns elicited shorter pauses, thus increasing Purkinje-cell output. We tested this prediction in Purkinje-cell recordings both in vitro and in vivo. In vitro, we found a shortening of pauses when decreasing the number of active PFs or after inducing LTD. In vivo, we observed longer pauses in LTD-deficient mice. Our results suggest a novel form of neural coding in the cerebellar cortex.
Project description:The deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN) have been suggested to play a critical role in sensorimotor learning and some forms of long-term synaptic plasticity observed in vitro have been proposed as a possible substrate. However, till now it was not clear whether and how DCN neuron responses manifest long-lasting changes in vivo. Here, we have characterized DCN unit responses to tactile stimulation of the facial area in anesthetized mice and evaluated the changes induced by theta-sensory stimulation (TSS), a 4 Hz stimulation pattern that is known to induce plasticity in the cerebellar cortex in vivo. DCN units responded to tactile stimulation generating bursts and pauses, which reflected combinations of excitatory inputs most likely relayed by mossy fiber collaterals, inhibitory inputs relayed by Purkinje cells, and intrinsic rebound firing. Interestingly, initial bursts and pauses were often followed by stimulus-induced oscillations in the peri-stimulus time histograms (PSTH). TSS induced long-lasting changes in DCN unit responses. Spike-related potentiation and suppression (SR-P and SR-S), either in units initiating the response with bursts or pauses, were correlated with stimulus-induced oscillations. Fitting with resonant functions suggested the existence of peaks in the theta-band (burst SR-P at 9 Hz, pause SR-S at 5 Hz). Optogenetic stimulation of the cerebellar cortex altered stimulus-induced oscillations suggesting that Purkinje cells play a critical role in the circuits controlling DCN oscillations and plasticity. This observation complements those reported before on the granular and molecular layers supporting the generation of multiple distributed plasticities in the cerebellum following naturally patterned sensory entrainment. The unique dependency of DCN plasticity on circuit oscillations discloses a potential relationship between cerebellar learning and activity patterns generated in the cerebellar network.
Project description:Neurons in the cerebellar nuclei (CN) receive inhibitory inputs from Purkinje cells in the cerebellar cortex and provide the major output from the cerebellum, but their computational function is not well understood. It has recently been shown that the spike activity of Purkinje cells is more regular than previously assumed and that this regularity can affect motor behaviour. We use a conductance-based model of a CN neuron to study the effect of the regularity of Purkinje cell spiking on CN neuron activity. We find that increasing the irregularity of Purkinje cell activity accelerates the CN neuron spike rate and that the mechanism of this recoding of input irregularity as output spike rate depends on the number of Purkinje cells converging onto a CN neuron. For high convergence ratios, the irregularity induced spike rate acceleration depends on short-term depression (STD) at the Purkinje cell synapses. At low convergence ratios, or for synchronised Purkinje cell input, the firing rate increase is independent of STD. The transformation of input irregularity into output spike rate occurs in response to artificial input spike trains as well as to spike trains recorded from Purkinje cells in tottering mice, which show highly irregular spiking patterns. Our results suggest that STD may contribute to the accelerated CN spike rate in tottering mice and they raise the possibility that the deficits in motor control in these mutants partly result as a pathological consequence of this natural form of plasticity.
Project description:Purkinje cells can encode the strength of parallel fiber inputs in their firing by using 2 fundamentally different mechanisms, either as pauses or as linear increases in firing rate. It is not clear which of these 2 encoding mechanisms is used by the cerebellum. We used the pattern-recognition capacity of Purkinje cells based on the Marr-Albus-Ito theory of cerebellar learning to evaluate the suitability of the linear algorithm for cerebellar information processing. Here, we demonstrate the simplicity and versatility of pattern recognition in Purkinje cells linearly encoding the strength of parallel fiber inputs in their firing rate. In contrast to encoding patterns with pauses, Purkinje cells using the linear algorithm could recognize a large number of both synchronous and asynchronous input patterns in the presence or absence of inhibitory synaptic transmission. Under all conditions, the number of patterns recognized by Purkinje cells using the linear algorithm was greater than that achieved by encoding information in pauses. Linear encoding of information also allows neurons of deep cerebellar nuclei to use a simple averaging mechanism to significantly increase the computational capacity of the cerebellum. We propose that the virtues of the linear encoding mechanism make it well suited for cerebellar computation.
Project description:Activation of the climbing fiber input powerfully excites cerebellar Purkinje cells via hundreds of widespread dendritic synapses, triggering dendritic spikes as well as a characteristic high-frequency burst of somatic spikes known as the complex spike. To investigate the relationship between dendritic spikes and the spikelets within the somatic complex spike, and to evaluate the importance of the dendritic distribution of climbing fiber synapses, we made simultaneous somatic and dendritic patch-clamp recordings from Purkinje cells in cerebellar slices. Injection of large climbing fiber-like synaptic conductances at the soma using dynamic clamp was sufficient to reproduce the complex spike, independently of dendritic spikes, indicating that neither a dendritic synaptic distribution nor dendritic spikes are required. Furthermore, we found that dendritic spikes are not directly linked to spikelets in the complex spike, and that each dendritic spike is associated with only 0.24 +/- 0.09 extra somatic spikelets. Rather, we demonstrate that dendritic spikes regulate the pause in firing that follows the complex spike. Finally, using dual somatic and axonal recording, we show that all spikelets in the complex spike are axonally generated. Thus, complex spike generation proceeds relatively independently of dendritic spikes, reflecting the dual functional role of climbing fiber input: triggering plasticity at dendritic synapses and generating a distinct output signal in the axon. The encoding of dendritic spiking by the post-complex spike pause provides a novel computational function for dendritic spikes, which could serve to link these two roles at the level of the target neurons in the deep cerebellar nuclei.
Project description:The output of the cerebellar cortex is controlled by two main inputs, (i.e., the climbing fiber and mossy fiber-parallel fiber pathway) and activations of these inputs elicit characteristic effects in its Purkinje cells: that is, the so-called complex spikes and simple spikes. Target neurons of the Purkinje cells in the cerebellar nuclei show rebound firing, which has been implicated in the processing and storage of motor coordination signals. Yet, it is not known to what extent these rebound phenomena depend on different modes of Purkinje cell activation. Using extracellular as well as patch-clamp recordings, we show here in both anesthetized and awake rodents that simple and complex spike-like train stimuli to the cerebellar cortex, as well as direct activation of the inferior olive, all result in rebound increases of the firing frequencies of cerebellar nuclei neurons for up to 250 ms, whereas single-pulse stimuli to the cerebellar cortex predominantly elicit well-timed spiking activity without changing the firing frequency of cerebellar nuclei neurons. We conclude that the rebound phenomenon offers a rich and powerful mechanism for cerebellar nuclei neurons, which should allow them to differentially process the climbing fiber and mossy fiber inputs in a physiologically operating cerebellum.
Project description:Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a debilitating and ultimately lethal disease involving progressive muscle degeneration and neurological dysfunction. DMD is caused by mutations in the dystrophin gene, which result in extremely low or total loss of dystrophin protein expression. In the brain, dystrophin is heavily localized to cerebellar Purkinje cells, which control motor and non-motor functions. In vitro experiments in mouse Purkinje cells revealed that loss of dystrophin leads to low firing rates and high spiking variability. However, it is still unclear how the loss of dystrophin affects cerebellar function in the intact brain. Here, we used in vivo electrophysiology to record Purkinje cells and cerebellar nuclear neurons in awake and anesthetized female mdx (also known as Dmd) mice. Purkinje cell simple spike firing rate is significantly lower in mdx mice compared to controls. Although simple spike firing regularity is not affected, complex spike regularity is increased in mdx mutants. Mean firing rate in cerebellar nuclear neurons is not altered in mdx mice, but their local firing pattern is irregular. Based on the relatively well-preserved cytoarchitecture in the mdx cerebellum, our data suggest that faulty signals across the circuit between Purkinje cells and cerebellar nuclei drive the abnormal firing activity. The in vivo requirements of dystrophin during cerebellar circuit communication could help explain the motor and cognitive anomalies seen in individuals with DMD.This article has an associated First Person interview with the first author of the paper.