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Open Access Research

Fear conditioning-related changes in cerebellar Purkinje cell activities in goldfish

Masayuki Yoshida* and Hiroki Kondo

Author Affiliations

Graduate School of Biosphere Science, Hiroshima University, Higashihiroshima, 739-8528, Japan

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Behavioral and Brain Functions 2012, 8:52  doi:10.1186/1744-9081-8-52

Published: 31 October 2012

Abstract

Background

Fear conditioning-induced changes in cerebellar Purkinje cell responses to a conditioned stimulus have been reported in rabbits. It has been suggested that synaptic long-term potentiation and the resulting increases in firing rates of Purkinje cells are related to the acquisition of conditioned fear in mammals. However, Purkinje cell activities during acquisition of conditioned fear have not been analysed, and changes in Purkinje cell activities throughout the development of conditioned fear have not yet been investigated. In the present study, we tracked Purkinje cell activities throughout a fear conditioning procedure and aimed to elucidate further how cerebellar circuits function during the acquisition and expression of conditioned fear.

Methods

Activities of single Purkinje cells in the corpus cerebelli were tracked throughout a classical fear conditioning procedure in goldfish. A delayed conditioning paradigm was used with cardiac deceleration as the conditioned response. Conditioning-related changes of Purkinje cell responses to a conditioned stimulus and unconditioned stimulus were examined.

Results

The majority of Purkinje cells sampled responded to the conditioned stimulus by either increasing or decreasing their firing rates before training. Although there were various types of conditioning-related changes in Purkinje cells, more than half of the cells showed suppressed activities in response to the conditioned stimulus after acquisition of conditioned fear. Purkinje cells that showed unconditioned stimulus-coupled complex-spike firings also exhibited conditioning-related suppression of simple-spike responses to the conditioned stimulus. A small number of Purkinje cells showed increased excitatory responses in the acquisition sessions. We found that the magnitudes of changes in the firing frequencies of some Purkinje cells in response to the conditioned stimulus correlated with the magnitudes of the conditioned responses on a trial-to-trial basis.

Conclusions

These results demonstrate that Purkinje cells in the corpus cerebelli of goldfish show fear conditioning-related changes in response to a stimulus that had been emotionally neutral prior to conditioning. Unconditioned stimulus-induced climbing fibre inputs to the Purkinje cells may be involved in mediating these plastic changes.

Keywords:
Cerebellum; Fear conditioning; Goldfish; Purkinje cell