We studied the possible effects of background excitatory and inhibitory synaptic activity on Purkinje cell responses to paired pulse inputs using a morphologically and physiologically detailed compartmental model. Paired-pulse inputs were provided via synapses associated with the ascending segment of the granule cell axon in the presence of variable amounts of background synaptic input provided by parallel fibers and inhibitory interneurons. The results predict the amplitude and dynamics of the somatic and dendritic responses to paired ascending segment inputs are modulated by the level of background synaptic activity, the basal somatic firing rate of the Purkinje cell model does not indicate the type or degree of modulation, and the modulatory effects are mediated through dendritic calcium and calcium-activated potassium currents. These results have important consequences for the functional organization of cerebellar cortex as well as the more general issue of the modulatory as distinct from driving effects of synapses now also being considered in other regions of the mammalian brain including the cerebral cortex.
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