Hebbian Spike-Timing Dependent Plasticity at the Cerebellar Input Stage

Martina Sgritta, Francesca Locatelli, Teresa Soda, Francesca Prestori, Egidio Ugo D'Angelo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) is a form of long-term synaptic plasticity exploiting the time relationship between postsynaptic action potentials (APs) and EPSPs. Surprisingly enough, very little was known about STDP in the cerebellum, although it is thought to play a critical role for learning appropriate timing of actions. We speculated that low-frequency oscillations observed in the granular layer may provide a reference for repetitive EPSP/AP phase coupling. Here we show that EPSP-spike pairing at 6 Hz can optimally induce STDP at the mossy fiber-granule cell synapse in rats. Spike timing-dependent long-term potentiation and depression (st-LTP and st-LTD) were confined to a ±25 ms time-window. Because EPSPs led APs in st-LTP while APs led EPSPs in st-LTD, STDP was Hebbian in nature. STDP occurred at 6-10 Hz but vanished >50 Hz or <1 Hz (where only LTP or LTD occurred). STDP disappeared with randomized EPSP/AP pairing or high intracellular Ca2+buffering, and its sign was inverted by GABA-A receptor activation. Both st-LTP and st-LTD required NMDA receptors, but st-LTP also required reinforcing signals mediated by mGluRs and intracellular calcium stores. Importantly, st-LTP and st-LTD were significantly larger than LTP and LTD obtained by modulating the frequency and duration of mossy fiber bursts, probably because STDP expression involved postsynaptic in addition to presynaptic mechanisms. These results thus show that a Hebbian form of STDP occurs at the cerebellum input stage, providing the substrate for phase-dependent binding of mossy fiber spikes to repetitive theta-frequency cycles of granule cell activity.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENTLong-term synaptic plasticity is a fundamental property of the brain, causing persistent modifications of neuronal communication thought to provide the cellular basis of learning and memory. The cerebellum is critical for learning the appropriate timing of sensorimotor behaviors, but whether and how appropriate spike patterns could drive long-term synaptic plasticity remained unknown. Here, we show that this can actually occur through a form of spike-timing-dependent plasticity (STDP) at the cerebellar inputs stage. Pairing presynaptic and postsynaptic spikes at 6-10 Hz reliably induced STDP at the mossy fiber-granule cell synapse, with potentiation and depression symmetrically distributed within a ±25 ms time window. Thus, STDP can bind plasticity to the mossy fiber burst phase with high temporal precision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2809-2823
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Mar 15 2017


  • Action Potentials/physiology
  • Animals
  • Biological Clocks/physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cerebellum/physiology
  • Female
  • Male
  • Nerve Fibers/physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity/physiology
  • Neurons/physiology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Synaptic Transmission/physiology


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