JournalMotor SystemsNeural Excitability, Synapses, and GliaTechniques

Chronic imaging of movement-related Purkinje cell calcium activity in awake behaving mice

Purkinje cells (PCs) are a major site of information integration and plasticity in the cerebellum, a brain region involved in motor task refinement. Thus PCs provide an ideal location for studying the mechanisms necessary for cerebellum-dependent motor learning. Increasingly, sophisticated behavior tasks, used in combination with genetic reporters and effectors of activity, have opened up the possibility of studying cerebellar circuits during voluntary movement at an unprecedented level of quantitation. However, current methods used to monitor PC activity do not take full advantage of these advances. For example, single-unit or multiunit electrode recordings, which provide excellent temporal information regarding electrical activity, only monitor a small population of cells and can be quite invasive. Bolus loading of cell-permeant calcium (Ca2+) indicators is short-lived, requiring same-day imaging immediately after surgery and/or indicator injection. Genetically encoded Ca2+ indicators (GECIs) overcome many of these limits and have garnered considerable use in many neuron types but only limited use in PCs. Here we employed these indicators to monitor Ca2+ activity in PCs over several weeks. We could repeatedly image from the same cerebellar regions across multiple days and observed stable activity. We used chronic imaging to monitor PC activity in crus II, an area previously linked to licking behavior, and identified a region of increased activity at the onset of licking. We then monitored this same region after training tasks to initiate voluntary licking behavior in response to different sensory stimuli. In all cases, PC Ca2+ activity increased at the onset of rhythmic licking.


Gaffield, M.A., Amat, S.B., Bito, H., and Christie, J.M. (2016). Chronic imaging of movement-related Purkinje cell calcium activity in awake behaving mice. J. Neurophysiol. 115, 413–422.
DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1152/jn.00834.2015