Cerebellar synaptic signaling as a metaphor for mentorship: how silence and speech get different deeds done
The cerebellum facilitates learned, coordinated movements and corrects errors. Signals to execute these functions are carried by the large neurons of the cerebellar nuclei, which form the major premotor projection from the cerebellum. How these neurons fire is determined by the interaction between their intrinsic ion channels, which favor spontaneous action potential firing; the constant barrage of synaptic inhibition they receive from dozens of convergent rapidly firing Purkinje cells; and the activity of mossy fiber inputs which excite large premotor cells directly as well as Purkinje cells indirectly. This seminar will discuss synaptic and cellular specializations in the mouse cerebellar nuclei that permit distinct modes of firing in response to different patterns of synaptic inputs as measured in vitro, as well as their relation to movements measured in awake behaving animals. The data provide evidence that not only the rate but also the temporal structure of Purkinje cell firing can influence the efficacy of synaptic excitation of large neurons, the pattern of cerebellar output, and the consequences for motor behavior.
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