Mechanisms of synchronous activity in cerebellar Purkinje cells


Corresponding author A. K. Wise: Bionic Ear Institute, 384-388 Albert St, East Melbourne, Vic, Australia, 3002.  Email:


Complex spike synchrony is thought to be a key feature of how inferior olive climbing fibre afferents make their vital contribution to cerebellar function. However, little is known about whether the other major cerebellar input, the mossy fibres (which generate simple spikes within Purkinje cells, PCs), exhibit a similar synchrony in impulse timing. We have used a multi-microelectrode system to record simultaneously from two or more PCs in the posterior lobe of the ketamine/xylazine-anaesthetized rat to examine the relationship between complex spike and simple spike synchrony in PC pairs located mainly in the A2 and C1 zones in crus II and the paramedian lobule. PC pairs displaying correlations in the occurrence of their complex spikes (coupled PCs) were usually located in the same zone and were also more likely to exhibit correlations in the timing of their spontaneous simple spikes and associated pauses in activity. In coupled PCs, synchrony in both complex spike and simple spike activity was enhanced and the relative timing in the occurrence of complex spikes could be altered by peripheral stimulation. We conclude that the functional coupling between PC pairs in their complex spike and simple spike activity can be significantly modified by sensory inputs, and that mechanisms besides electrotonic coupling are involved in generating PC synchrony. Synchronous activity in multiple PCs converging onto the same cerebellar nuclear cells is likely to have a significant impact on cerebellar output that could form important timing signals to orchestrate coordinated movements.