Electrical coupling and synchronized subthreshold oscillations in the inferior olive of the Rhesus Macaque

Josef Turecek, Victor Z. Han, Verginia C. Cuzon Carlson, Kathleen A. Grant, John P. Welsh

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    10 Scopus citations


    Inferior olive (IO) neurons are critical for motor coordination and exhibit oscillations in membrane potential that are subthreshold for spiking. The prevalence, coherence, and continuity of those subthreshold oscillations (STOs) depend upon resonant interactions between neighboring neurons supported by electrical coupling. Many studies of the olivocerebellar system in rodents, in which STOs were related to tremor, whisking, and licking, fueled a debate over whether IO STOs were relevant for primates whose repertoire of movement is generally less periodic. The debate was never well informed due to the lack of a direct examination of the physiological properties of primate IO neurons. Here, we obtained dual patch-clamp recordings of neighboring IO neurons from young adult macaques in brainstem slices and compared them to identical recordings from rats. Macaque IO neurons exhibited an equivalent prevalence of continuous STOs as rats (45 vs 54%, respectively). However, macaque STOs were slower (1–4 Hz) and did not overlap with the dominant 4–9Hz frequency of rats. The slower STO frequency of macaques was at least partially due to a prolonged membrane time constant and increased membrane capacitance that could be attributed to stronger electrical coupling and greater total dendritic length. The presence of synchronized STOs in the IO of adult macaques, coincident with strong and prevalent electrical coupling, answers a fundamental outstanding question in cerebellar neuroscience and is consistent with a prominent role for synchronized oscillation in primate sensory-motor control.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)6497-6502
    Number of pages6
    JournalJournal of Neuroscience
    Issue number24
    StatePublished - Jun 15 2016


    • Electrical synapse
    • Inferior olive
    • Oscillation
    • Primate
    • Synchrony

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Neuroscience(all)


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