Preterm birth impedes structural and functional development of cerebellar purkinje cells in the developing baboon cerebellum

Tara Barron, Jun Hee Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Human cerebellar development occurs late in gestation and is hindered by preterm birth. The fetal development of Purkinje cells, the primary output cells of the cerebellar cortex, is crucial for the structure and function of the cerebellum. However, morphological and electrophysiological features in Purkinje cells at different gestational ages, and the effects of neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) experience on cerebellar development are unexplored. Utilizing the non-human primate baboon cerebellum, we investigated Purkinje cell development during the last trimester of pregnancy and the effect of NICU experience following premature birth on developmental features of Purkinje cells. Immunostaining and whole-cell patch clamp recordings of Purkinje cells in the baboon cerebellum at different gestational ages revealed that molecular layer width, driven by Purkinje dendrite extension, drastically increased and refinement of action potential waveform properties occurred throughout the last trimester of pregnancy. Preterm birth followed by NICU experience for 2 weeks impeded development of Purkinje cells, including action potential waveform properties, synaptic input, and dendrite extension compared with age-matched controls. In addition, these alterations impact Purkinje cell output, reducing the spontaneous firing frequency in deep cerebellar nucleus (DCN) neurons. Taken together, the primate cerebellum undergoes developmental refinements during late gestation, and NICU experience following extreme preterm birth influences morphological and physiological features in the cerebellum that can lead to functional deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number897
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Sciences
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Baboon
  • Cerebellum
  • Electrophysiology
  • Fetal development
  • NICU
  • Non-human primate
  • Preterm birth
  • Purkinje cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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