Dynamic correspondence between Purkinje cell discharge and forelimb muscle activity during reaching

Robert N. Holdefer, Lee E. Miller*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


There remain conflicting models of the cerebellar control of limb movement, ranging from the suggestion that the inhibitory output from Purkinje cells (PCs) is meant to suppress unwanted muscle activity, to the hypothesis that the cerebellar cortex embodies complex internal models of limb dynamics. To test these ideas, we undertook a quantitative comparison of PC simple spike dynamics to those of muscle activity. We recorded simultaneously from Purkinje cells in the paravermal anterior lobe and from muscles of the hand and arm in the behaving monkey during a simple, sequential button pressing task. The task-related discharge of each neuron was determined from peri-event histograms aligned to the onset of the behavior. Bursts of discharge were more than twice as common as pauses, but there was no difference in their timing relative to movement. From the same recordings, the similarity between discharge and muscle activity was evaluated by calculating the cross correlation between firing rate and rectified EMG. Surprisingly, given the inhibitory projection of PCs, most of the bursts of PC discharge were positively correlated with muscle activity. Although our results do not support a simple correspondence of pauses and bursts with limb acceleration and deceleration respectively, they are consistent with a more complex PC regulation of cerebellar nuclear activity from task-related, corticopontine drive.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-75
Number of pages9
JournalBrain research
StatePublished - Oct 12 2009


  • Cerebellar nucleus
  • Cross correlation
  • Limb movement
  • Primate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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