Somatosensory properties of the inferior olive of the cat

Reuben Gellman*, James C. Houk, Alan R. Gibson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

156 Scopus citations


We examined the somatosensory properties of 391 neurons in the inferior olive in 20 cats that were anesthetized with barbiturate or decere‐brated. A response consisted of a single spike with a variable number of wavelets followed by a long refractory period. Neurons responsive to natural somatosensory stimuli were recorded in all olivary subdivisions. The dorsal accessory olive (DAO) contained the highest proportion of responsive units (96%), compared with 66% for the medial accessory olive (MAO) and 43% for the principal olivary (PO) nucleus. Within the rostral DAO we found a refined cutaneous map of the entire contralateral body surface. In the caudal DAO responsiveness to manipulation of deep tissues became prominent, and both individual limbs and bilateral pairs were represented. In the medial region of the PO responsiveness to taps predominated and bilaterally symmetrical fields were frequent. The lateral PO was unresponsive under the conditions of these experiments. The MAO was distinguished by a greater complexity of receptive field and by a preponderance of deep over cutaneous modality. The lateral part of caudal MAO contained cells with interesting spatial patterns of excitation and inhibition, whereas most cells in the rostral MAO had purely excitatory fields. A teleceptive area receiving visual and auditory input was recognized in the medial MAO and nearby structures such as the dorsal cap. Contact and proprioceptive signals arriving via climbing fibers may provide the cerebellum with information necessary to relate the body to external objects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)228-243
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Comparative Neurology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 1983
Externally publishedYes


  • cerebellum
  • climbing fibers
  • neurophysiology
  • somatotopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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