Stimulation within the cuneate nucleus suppresses synaptic activation of climbing fibers
Several lines of research have shown that the excitability of the inferior olive is suppressed during different phases of movement. A number of different structures like the cerebral cortex, the red nucleus, and the cerebellum have been suggested as candidate structures for mediating this gating. The inhibition of the responses of the inferior olivary neurons from the red nucleus has been studied extensively and anatomical studies have found specific areas within the cuneate nucleus to be target areas for projections from the magnocellular red nucleus. In addition, GABA-ergic cells projecting from the cuneate nucleus to the inferior olive have been found. We therefore tested if direct stimulation of the cuneate nucleus had inhibitory effects on a climbing fiber field response, evoked by electrical stimulation of the pyramidal tract, recorded on the surface of the cerebellum. When the pyramidal tract stimulation was preceded by weak electrical stimulation (5–20 μA) within the cuneate nucleus, the amplitude of the climbing fiber field potential was strongly suppressed (approx. 90% reduction). The time course of this suppression was similar to that found after red nucleus stimulation, with a peak suppression occurring at 70 ms after the cuneate stimulation. Application of CNQX (6-cyano-7-nitroquinoxaline-2,3-dione, disodium salt) on the cuneate nucleus blocked the suppression almost completely. We conclude that a relay through the cuneate nucleus is a possible pathway for movement-related suppression of climbing fiber excitability.