Serotonin regulates dynamics of cerebellar granule cell activity by modulating tonic inhibition.
Understanding how afferent information is integrated by cortical structures requires identifying the factors shaping excitation and inhibition within their input layers. The input layer of the cerebellar cortex integrates diverse sensorimotor information to enable learned associations that refine the dynamics of movement. Specifically, mossy fiber afferents relay sensorimotor input into the cerebellum to excite granule cells, whose activity is regulated by inhibitory Golgi cells. To test how this integration can be modulated, we have used an acute brain slice preparation from young adult rats and found that encoding of mossy fiber input in the cerebellar granule cell layer can be regulated by serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) via a specific action on Golgi cells. We find that 5-HT depolarizes Golgi cells, likely by activating 5-HT2A receptors, but does not directly act on either granule cells or mossy fibers. As a result of Golgi cell depolarization, 5-HT significantly increases tonic inhibition onto both granule cells and Golgi cells. 5-HT-mediated Golgi cell depolarization is not sufficient, however, to alter the probability or timing of mossy fiber-evoked feed-forward inhibition onto granule cells. Together, increased granule cell tonic inhibition paired with normal feed-forward inhibition acts to reduce granule cell spike probability without altering spike timing. Hence, these data provide a circuit mechanism by which 5-HT can reduce granule cell activity without altering temporal representations of mossy fiber input. Such changes in network integration could enable flexible, state-specific suppression of cerebellar sensorimotor input that should not be learned or enable reversal learning for unwanted associations. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) regulates synaptic integration at the input stage of cerebellar processing by increasing tonic inhibition of granule cells. This circuit mechanism reduces the probability of granule cell spiking without altering spike timing, thus suppressing cerebellar input without altering its temporal representation in the granule cell layer.
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