Neuronal firing patterns are crucial to underpin circuit level behaviors. In cerebellar Purkinje cells (PCs), both spike rates and pauses are used for behavioral coding, but the cellular mechanisms causing code transitions remain unknown. We use a well-validated PC model to explore the coding strategy that individual PCs use to process parallel fiber (PF) inputs. We find increasing input intensity shifts PCs from linear rate-coders to burst-pause timing-coders by triggering localized dendritic spikes. We validate dendritic spike properties with experimental data, elucidate spiking mechanisms, and predict spiking thresholds with and without inhibition. Both linear and burst-pause computations use individual branches as computational units, which challenges the traditional view of PCs as linear point neurons. Dendritic spike thresholds can be regulated by voltage state, compartmentalized channel modulation, between-branch interaction and synaptic inhibition to expand the dynamic range of linear computation or burst-pause computation. In addition, co-activated PF inputs between branches can modify somatic maximum spike rates and pause durations to make them carry analogue signals. Our results provide new insights into the strategies used by individual neurons to expand their capacity of information processing.
Zang Y, De Schutter E (2021) The Cellular Electrophysiological Properties Underlying Multiplexed Coding in Purkinje Cells. J Neurosci [PubMed]