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Structure and Function in the Inferior Olivary Nucleus

Mathy, ARD; (2012) Structure and Function in the Inferior Olivary Nucleus. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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The inferior olivary nucleus is the source of the climbing fibres, one of the two major afferent pathways into the cerebellum. This thesis is concerned with aspects of the cellular anatomy and physiology of neurons in the inferior olive. In the first chapter, I report on the first direct patch-clamp recordings from olivary axons, and show that they fire in short bursts that can relay information about the state of olivary network and modulate plasticity in the cerebellar cortex. A remarkable feature of the olive is the widespread electrotonic coupling between neurons underlying their synchronous firing. In the second chapter I combine electrophysiological and immunohistological methods to characterize the coupling. I reveal the first morphological reconstructions of coupled pairs of olivary neurons, and show that the dendritic spines responsible for coupling neurons have very heterogeneous morphologies. Furthermore, I show that olivary dendrites may contact olivary somata and oligodendrocytes. In the third chapter, I use pharmacology and modelling to study the effect of inhibitory synapses on the coupling between olivary neurons. Confirming a popular theory, I show that GABA-A receptor activation reduces coupling between neurons, and use models to study the effect of location, timing and stochastic properties of the inhibitory input on electrical coupling. The common theme for all our findings is that the remarkable interplay between the anatomy and electrophysiological characteristics of the inferior olive underlies a unique computational unit in the central nervous system.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Structure and Function in the Inferior Olivary Nucleus
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Medical Sciences > Medicine (Division of) > Wolfson Inst for Biomedical Research

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