In vivo analysis of inhibitory synaptic inputs and rebounds in deep cerebellar nuclear neurons
Neuronal function depends on the properties of the synaptic inputs the neuron receive and on its intrinsic responsive properties. However, the conditions for synaptic integration and activation of intrinsic responses may to a large extent depend on the level of background synaptic input. In this respect, the deep cerebellar nuclear (DCN) neurons are of particular interest: they feature a massive background synaptic input and an intrinsic, postinhibitory rebound depolarization with profound effects on the synaptic integration. Using in vivo whole cell patch clamp recordings from DCN cells in the cat, we find that the background of Purkinje cell input provides a tonic inhibitory synaptic noise in the DCN cell. Under these conditions, individual Purkinje cells appear to have a near negligible influence on the DCN cell and clear-cut rebounds are difficult to induce. Peripheral input that drives the simple spike output of the afferent PCs to the DCN cell generates a relatively strong DCN cell inhibition, but do not induce rebounds. In contrast, synchronized climbing fiber activation, which leads to a synchronized input from a large number of Purkinje cells, can induce profound rebound responses. In light of what is known about climbing fiber activation under behaviour, the present findings suggest that DCN cell rebound responses may be an unusual event. Our results also suggest that cortical modulation of DCN cell output require a substantial co-modulation of a large proportion of the PCs that innervate the cell, which is a possible rationale for the existence of the cerebellar microcomplex.