Role of Olivary Electrical Coupling in Cerebellar Motor Learning
The level of electrotonic coupling in the inferior olive is extremely high, but its functional role in cerebellar motor control remains elusive. Here, we subjected mice that lack olivary coupling to paradigms that require learning-dependent timing. Cx36-deficient mice showed impaired timing of both locomotion and eye-blink responses that were conditioned to a tone. The latencies of their olivary spike activities in response to the unconditioned stimulus were significantly more variable than those in wild-types. Whole-cell recordings of olivary neurons in vivo showed that these differences in spike timing result at least in part from altered interactions with their subthreshold oscillations. These results, combined with analyses of olivary activities in computer simulations at both the cellular and systems level, suggest that electrotonic coupling among olivary neurons by gap junctions is essential for proper timing of their action potentials and thereby for learning-dependent timing in cerebellar motor control.