Climbing Fibers Mediate Vestibular Modulation of Both “Complex” and “Simple Spikes” in Purkinje Cells

N. H. Barmack, V. Yakhnitsa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Climbing and mossy fibers comprise two distinct afferent paths to the cerebellum. Climbing fibers directly evoke a large multispiked action potential in Purkinje cells termed a “complex spike” (CS). By logical exclusion, the other class of Purkinje cell action potential, termed “simple spike” (SS), has often been attributed to activity conveyed by mossy fibers and relayed to Purkinje cells through granule cells. Here, we investigate the relative importance of climbing and mossy fiber pathways in modulating neuronal activity by recording extracellularly from Purkinje cells, as well as from mossy fiber terminals and interneurons in folia 8–10. Sinusoidal roll-tilt vestibular stimulation vigorously modulates the discharge of climbing and mossy fiber afferents, Purkinje cells, and interneurons in folia 9–10 in anesthetized mice. Roll-tilt onto the side ipsilateral to the recording site increases the discharge of both climbing fibers (CSs) and mossy fibers. However, the discharges of SSs decrease during ipsilateral roll-tilt. Unilateral microlesions of the beta nucleus (β-nucleus) of the inferior olive blocks vestibular modulation of both CSs and SSs in contralateral Purkinje cells. The blockage of SSs occurs even though primary and secondary vestibular mossy fibers remain intact. When mossy fiber afferents are damaged by a unilateral labyrinthectomy (UL), vestibular modulation of SSs in Purkinje cells ipsilateral to the UL remains intact. Two inhibitory interneurons, Golgi and stellate cells, could potentially contribute to climbing fiber-induced modulation of SSs. However, during sinusoidal roll-tilt, only stellate cells discharge appropriately out of phase with the discharge of SSs. Golgi cells discharge in phase with SSs. When the vestibularly modulated discharge is blocked by a microlesion of the inferior olive, the modulated discharge of CSs and SSs is also blocked. When the vestibular mossy fiber pathway is destroyed, vestibular modulation of ipsilateral CSs and SSs persists. We conclude that climbing fibers are primarily responsible for the vestibularly modulated discharge of both CSs and SSs. Modulation of the discharge of SSs is likely caused by climbing fiber-evoked stellate cell inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)597-612
Number of pages16
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015


  • Basket cell
  • Cerebellar plasticity
  • Folia 8–10
  • Golgi cell
  • Granule cell
  • Inferior olive
  • Mossy fiber
  • Unipolar brush cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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