Webster, Douglas B. Department of Otorhinolaryngology and Biocommunication, Louisiana State University Medical Center, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Last reviewed:April 2021
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A type of large neuron that resides in the cerebellar cortex of the vertebrate brain. Purkinje cells are large neurons in the cortex of the cerebellum of vertebrate animals. These neurons play a prominent role in regulating and maintaining the proper function of motor movements. Purkinje cells are arranged as a single layer of cells between the molecular and granular layers of the brain. Named after the Czech histologist and physiologist Jan Evangelista Purkinje, who discovered these neurons in 1837, Purkinje cells are distinctive in appearance because of their large, flask-shaped cell bodies; their single long axon; and numerous threadlike branching extensions (dendrites, which receive electrochemical impulses from other cells) [see illustration]. By releasing gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, Purkinje cells reduce the activity (firing rate) of other neurons, sending impulses to other places in the central nervous system. Thus, Purkinje cells constitute the sole output of the cerebellar cortex, modulating the level and degree of motor function. See also: Brain; Central nervous system; Motor systems (neuroscience); Nerve; Nervous system (vertebrate); Neurobiology; Neuron
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