Simultaneous recordings of the left and right crus IIA of the cerebellar cortex in the rat have demonstrated that Purkinje cells of both sides can be activated synchronously by their climbing fibers. Because climbing fibers arise exclusively from the contralateral inferior olive (IO), this physiological finding seems to contradict the anatomy. To define the structural basis responsible for the bilateral synchrony, we examined the possibilities that bilateral common afferent inputs to the IO and interolivary connections form the underlying mechanisms. The bilaterality of the major afferents of the olivary regions that project to crus IIA was studied using Phaseolus vulgaris leucoagglutinin as an anterograde tracer. We found that the excitatory and inhibitory projections from the spinal trigeminal nucleus and dorsolateral hump of the interposed cerebellar nucleus to the transition area between the principal olive and dorsal accessory olive were bilateral. A second possible mechanism for bilateral synchrony, which is the possibility that axons of olivary neurons provide collaterals to the contralateral side, was investigated using biotinylated dextran amine as an anterograde tracer. Labeled axons were traced and reconstructed from the principal olive and dorsal and medial accessory olive up to the entrance of the contralateral restiform body. None of these axons gave rise to collaterals. The possibility that neurons in the left and right IO are electronically coupled via dendrodendritic connections was investigated by examining the midline region of the IO. The neuropil of the left and right IO is continuous in the dorsomedial cell column. Examination of Golgi impregnations of this subdivision demonstrated that (1) many dendrites cross from one side to the other, (2) neurons close to the midline give rise to dendrites that extend into both olives, and (3) dendrites of neurons in the dorsomedial cell column frequently traverse into adjacent olivary subdivisions such as the medial accessory olive and the transition area between the principal olive and dorsal accessory olive. Sections immunostained for dendritic lamellar bodies or GABAergic terminals showed the same pattern: the neuropils of the dorsomedial cell columns on both sides form a continuum with each other as well as with the neuropil of other adjacent olivary subdivisions. Ultrastructural examination of the dorsomedial cell column demonstrated that the midline area includes many complex glomeruli that contain dendritic spines linked by gap junctions. To verify whether the complex spike synchrony observed between left and right crus IIA could indeed be mediated in part through coupled neurons in the dorsomedial cell column, we recorded simultaneously from crus IIA areas and from left and right vermal lobule IX, which receives climbing fibers from the dorsomedial cell column. In these experiments we demonstrated that the climbing fibers of all four areas, i.e., the left and right crus IIA as well as the left and right lobule IX, can fire synchronously. The present results indicate that synchronous climbing fiber activation of the left and right crus IIA in the rat can be explained by (1) bilateral inputs to the transition areas between the principal olive and dorsal accessory olive and (2) dendrodendritic electrotonic coupling between neurons of the left and right dorsomedial cell column and between neurons of the dorsomedial cell column and adjacent olivary subdivisions.