Cerebellar Purkinje neurons help compute absolute subsecond timing, but how their firing is affected during repetitive sensory stimulation with consistent subsecond intervals remains unaddressed. Here, we investigated how simple and complex spikes of Purkinje cells change during regular application of air puffs (3.3 Hz for ~4 min) to the whisker pad of awake, head-fixed female mice. Complex spike responses fell into two categories: those in which firing rates increased (at ~50 ms) and then fell [complex spike elevated (CxSE) cells] and those in which firing rates decreased (at ~70 ms) and then rose [complex spike reduced (CxSR) cells]. Both groups had indistinguishable rates of basal complex (~1.7 Hz) and simple (~75 Hz) spikes and initially responded to puffs with a well-timed sensory response, consisting of a short-latency (~15 ms), transient (4 ms) suppression of simple spikes. CxSE more than CxSR cells, however, also showed a longer-latency increase in simple spike rate, previously shown to reflect motor command signals. With repeated puffs, basal simple spike rates dropped greatly in CxSR but not CxSE cells; complex spike rates remained constant, but their temporal precision rose in CxSR cells and fell in CxSE cells. Also over time, transient simple spike suppression gradually disappeared in CxSE cells, suggesting habituation, but remained stable in CxSR cells, suggesting reliable transmission of sensory stimuli. During stimulus omissions, both categories of cells showed complex spike suppression with different latencies. The data indicate two modes by which Purkinje cells transmit regular repetitive stimuli, distinguishable by their climbing fiber signals. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Responses of cerebellar Purkinje cells in awake mice form two categories defined by complex spiking during regular trains of brief, somatosensory stimuli. Cells in which complex spike probability first increases or decreases show simple spike suppressions that habituate or persist, respectively. Stimulus omissions alter complex spiking. The results provide evidence for differential suppression of olivary cells during sensory stimulation and omissions and illustrate that climbing fiber innervation defines Purkinje cell responses to repetitive stimuli.
- Climbing fiber
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