Innate defensive behaviors, such as freezing, are adaptive for avoiding predation. Freezing-related midbrain regions project to the cerebellum, which is known to regulate rapid sensorimotor integration, raising the question of cerebellar contributions to freezing. Here, we find that neurons of the mouse medial (fastigial) cerebellar nuclei (mCbN), which fire spontaneously with wide dynamic ranges, send glutamatergic projections to the ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG), which contains diverse cell types. In freely moving mice, optogenetically stimulating glutamatergic vlPAG neurons that express Chx10 reliably induces freezing. In vlPAG slices, mCbN terminals excite ~20% of neurons positive for Chx10 or GAD2 and ~70% of dopaminergic TH-positive neurons. Stimulating either mCbN afferents or TH neurons augments IPSCs and suppresses EPSCs in Chx10 neurons by activating postsynaptic D2 receptors. The results suggest that mCbN activity regulates dopaminergic modulation of the vlPAG, favoring inhibition of Chx10 neurons. Suppression of cerebellar output may therefore facilitate freezing.
- Christopher E Vaaga
- Indira M Raman
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
Animal experimentation: All procedures conformed to NIH guidelines and were approved by the Northwestern University Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee, protocol IS00000242 (IMR).
- Julie A Kauer, Stanford University, United States
© 2020, Vaaga et al.
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