Spontaneous activity does not predict morphological type in cerebellar interneurons

Shlomi Haar, Ronit Givon-Mayo, Neal H. Barmack, Vadim Yakhnitsa, Opher Donchin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


The effort to determine morphological and anatomically defined neuronal characteristics from extracellularly recorded physiological signatures has been attempted with varying success in different brain areas. Recent studies have attempted such classification of cerebellar interneurons (CINs) based on statistical measures of spontaneous activity. Previously, such efforts in different brain areas have used supervised clustering methods based on standard parameterizations of spontaneous interspike interval (ISI) histograms. We worried that this might bias researchers toward positive identification results and decided to take a different approach.Werecorded CINs from anesthetized cats. We used unsupervised clustering methods applied to a nonparametric representation of the ISI histograms to identify groups of CINs with similar spontaneous activity and then asked how these groups map onto different cell types. Our approach was a fuzzy C-means clustering algorithm applied to the Kullbach–Leibler distances between ISI histograms. We found that there is, in fact, a natural clustering of the spontaneous activity of CINs into six groups but that there was no relationship between this clustering and the standard morphologically defined cell types. These results proved robust when generalization was tested to completely new datasets, including datasets recorded under different anesthesia conditions and in different laboratories and different species (rats). Our results suggest the importance of an unsupervised approach in categorizing neurons according to their extracellular activity. Indeed, a reexamination of such categorization efforts throughout the brain may be necessary. One important open question is that of functional differences of our six spontaneously defined clusters during actual behavior.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1432-1442
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number4
StatePublished - 28 Jan 2015


  • Cerebellar cortex interneurons
  • Fuzzy C-means clustering
  • Inter-spike interval

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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