Citation: Journal of Neuroscience, 16, 3760-3774
Abstract: To understand how the cerebellum adaptively times the classically conditioned nictitating membrane response (NMR), a model of the metabotropic glutamate receptor (mGluR) second messenger system in cerebellar Purkinje cells is constructed. In the model, slow responses, generated postsynaptically by mGluR-mediated phosphoinositide hydrolysis and calcium release from intracellular stores, bridge the interstimulus interval (ISI) between the onset of parallel fiber activity associated with the conditioned stimulus (CS) and climbing fiber activity associated with unconditioned stimulus (US) onset. Temporal correlation of metabotropic responses and climbing fiber signals produces persistent phosphorylation of both AMPA receptors and Ca2+-dependent K+ channels. This is responsible for long-term depression (LTD) of AMPA receptors. The phosphorylation of Ca2+-dependent K+ channels leads to a reduction in baseline membrane potential and a reduction of Purkinje cell population firing during the CS-US interval. The Purkinje cell firing decrease disinhibits cerebellar nuclear cells, which then produce an excitatory response corresponding to the learned movement. Purkinje cell learning times the response, whereas nuclear cell learning can calibrate it. The model reproduces key features of the conditioned rabbit NMR: Purkinje cell population response is timed properly; delay conditioning occurs for ISIs of up to 4 sec, whereas trace conditioning occurs only at shorter ISIs; mixed training at two different ISIs produces a double-peaked response; and ISIs of 200-400 msec produce maximal responding. Biochemical similarities between timed cerebellar learning and photoreceptor transduction, and circuit similarities between the timed cerebellar circuit and a timed dentate-CA3 hippocampal circuit, are noted.