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In contrast to the uniform anatomy of the cerebellar cortex, molecular and physiological studies indicate that significant differences exist between cortical regions, suggesting that the spiking activity of Purkinje cells (PCs) in different regions could also show distinct characteristics. To investigate this possibility we obtained extracellular recordings from PCs in different zebrin bands in crus IIa and vermis lobules VIII and IX in anesthetized rats in order to compare PC firing characteristics between zebrin positive (Z+) and negative (Z-) bands. In addition, we analyzed recordings from PCs in the A2 and C1 zones of several lobules in the posterior lobe, which largely contain Z+ and Z- PCs, respectively. In both datasets significant differences in simple spike (SS) activity were observed between cortical regions. Specifically, Z- and C1 PCs had higher SS firing rates than Z+ and A2 PCs, respectively. The irregularity of SS firing (as assessed by measures of interspike interval distribution) was greater in Z+ bands in both absolute and relative terms. The results regarding systematic variations in complex spike (CS) activity were less consistent, suggesting that while real differences can exist, they may be sensitive to other factors than the cortical location of the PC. However, differences in the interactions between SSs and CSs, including the post-CS pause in SSs and post-pause modulation of SSs, were also consistently observed between bands. Similar, though less strong trends were observed in the zonal recordings. These systematic variations in spontaneous firing characteristics of PCs between zebrin bands in vivo, raises the possibility that fundamental differences in information encoding exist between cerebellar cortical regions.
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