Purkinje cell axonal swellings enhance action potential fidelity and cerebellar function

Daneck Lang-Ouellette, Kim M. Gruver, Amy Smith-Dijak, François G.C. Blot, Chloe A. Stewart, Pauline de Vanssay de Blavous, Connie H. Li, Carter Van Eitrem, Charlotte Rosen, Phyllis L. Faust, Martijn Schonewille, Alanna J. Watt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Axonal plasticity allows neurons to control their output, which critically determines the flow of information in the brain. Axon diameter can be regulated by activity, yet how morphological changes in an axon impact its function remains poorly understood. Axonal swellings have been found on Purkinje cell axons in the cerebellum both in healthy development and in neurodegenerative diseases, and computational models predicts that axonal swellings impair axonal function. Here we report that in young Purkinje cells, axons with swellings propagated action potentials with higher fidelity than those without, and that axonal swellings form when axonal failures are high. Furthermore, we observed that healthy young adult mice with more axonal swellings learn better on cerebellar-related tasks than mice with fewer swellings. Our findings suggest that axonal swellings underlie a form of axonal plasticity that optimizes the fidelity of action potential propagation in axons, resulting in enhanced learning.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4129
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2021


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