Ascending subcortical pathways effectively modulate hippocampal information processing. Two components, the cholinergic and serotonergic pathways have been demonstrated to play an important role in the generation of behaviour-dependent hippocampal EEG patterns. Several findings suggest that the above projections influence the activity of hippocampal interneurons. Here we review the available data from physiological, pharmacological and receptor localization experiments, drawing attention to the crucial role of interneurons in the transfer and amplification of subcortical effects on cortical information processing. We hypothesize that, by exerting diverse actions on different subsets of interneurons, the cholinergic and serotonergic systems might change the balance of somatic and dendritic inhibition, and consequently change the integrative properties of hippocampal principal cells.