Regularity, variability and bi-stability in the activity of cerebellar Purkinje cells

Dan Rokni, Zohar Tal, Hananel Byk, Yosef Yarom*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Recent studies have demonstrated that the membrane potential of Purkinje cells is bi-stable and that this phenomenon underlies bi-modal simple spike firing. Membrane potential alternates between a depolarized state, that is associated with spontaneous simple spike firing (up state), and a quiescent hyperpolarized state (down state). A controversy has emerged regarding the relevance of bi-stability to the awake animal, yet recordings made from behaving cat Purkinje cells have demonstrated that at least 50% of the cells exhibit bi-modal firing. The robustness of the phenomenon in vitro or in anaesthetized systems on the one hand, and the controversy regarding its expression in behaving animals on the other hand suggest that state transitions are under neuronal control. Indeed, we have recently demonstrated that synaptic inputs can induce transitions between the states and suggested that the role of granule cell input is to control the states of Purkinje cells rather than increase or decrease firing rate gradually. We have also shown that the state of a Purkinje cell does not only affect its firing but also the waveform of climbing fiber-driven complex spikes and the associated calcium influx. These findings call for a reconsideration of the role of Purkinje cells in cerebellar function. In this manuscript we review the recent findings on Purkinje cell bi-stability and add some analyses of its effect on the regularity and variability of Purkinje cell activity.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number12
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
Issue numberNOV
StatePublished - 9 Nov 2009


  • Ca imaging
  • Climbing fiber
  • Complex spike
  • Firing state
  • Mossy fiber
  • Simple spike


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