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Heterogeneity of Purkinje cell simple spike–complex spike interactions: zebrin‐ and non‐zebrin‐related variations

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The Journal of Physiology

Published online on


Key points Cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs) generate two types of action potentials, simple and complex spikes. Although they are generated by distinct mechanisms, interactions between the two spike types exist. Zebrin staining produces alternating positive and negative stripes of PCs across most of the cerebellar cortex. Thus, here we compared simple spike–complex spike interactions both within and across zebrin populations. Simple spike activity undergoes a complex modulation preceding and following a complex spike. The amplitudes of the pre‐ and post‐complex spike modulation phases were correlated across PCs. On average, the modulation was larger for PCs in zebrin positive regions. Correlations between aspects of the complex spike waveform and simple spike activity were found, some of which varied between zebrin positive and negative PCs. The implications of the results are discussed with regard to hypotheses that complex spikes are triggered by rises in simple spike activity for either motor learning or homeostatic functions. Abstract Purkinje cells (PCs) generate two types of action potentials, called simple and complex spikes (SSs and CSs). We first investigated the CS‐associated modulation of SS activity and its relationship to the zebrin status of the PC. The modulation pattern consisted of a pre‐CS rise in SS activity, and then, following the CS, a pause, a rebound, and finally a late inhibition of SS activity for both zebrin positive (Z+) and negative (Z−) cells, though the amplitudes of the phases were larger in Z+ cells. Moreover, the amplitudes of the pre‐CS rise with the late inhibitory phase of the modulation were correlated across PCs. In contrast, correlations between modulation phases across CSs of individual PCs were generally weak. Next, the relationship between CS spikelets and SS activity was investigated. The number of spikelets/CS correlated with the average SS firing rate only for Z+ cells. In contrast, correlations across CSs between spikelet numbers and the amplitudes of the SS modulation phases were generally weak. Division of spikelets into likely axonally propagated and non‐propagated groups (based on their interspikelet interval) showed that the correlation of spikelet number with SS firing rate primarily reflected a relationship with non‐propagated spikelets. In sum, the results show both zebrin‐related and non‐zebrin‐related physiological heterogeneity in SS–CS interactions among PCs, which suggests that the cerebellar cortex is more functionally diverse than is assumed by standard theories of cerebellar function.