The deep cerebellar nuclei (DCN) are the major output of the cerebellum, and have been proposed as a site of memory storage for certain forms of motor learning. Microelectrode and whole-cell patch recordings were performed on DCN neurones in acute slices of juvenile rat cerebellum. DCN neurones display tonic and bursting basal firing patterns. In tonically firing neurones, a stimulus consisting of EPSP bursts produced a brief increase in dendritic Ca2+ concentration and a persistent increase in the number of spikes elicited by a depolarizing test pulse, along with a decrease in spike threshold. In intrinsically bursting DCN neurones, EPSP bursts induced an increase in the number of depolarization-evoked spikes in some neurones, but in others produced a change to a more tonic firing pattern. Application of IPSP bursts evoked a large number of rebound spikes and an associated dendritic Ca2+ transient, which also produced a persistent increase in the number of spikes elicited by a test pulse. Intracellular perfusion of the Ca2+ chelator BAPTA prevented the increase in intrinsic excitability. Thus, rapid changes in intrinsic excitability in the DCN may be driven by bursts of both EPSPs and IPSPs, and may result in persistent changes to both firing frequency and pattern.
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