Schizophrenia, autism and intellectual disabilities are best understood as spectrums of diseases that have broad sets of causes. However, it is becoming evident that these conditions also have overlapping phenotypes and genetics, which is suggestive of common deficits. In this context, the idea that the disruption of inhibitory circuits might be responsible for some of the clinical features of these disorders is gaining support. Recent studies in animal models demonstrate that the molecular basis of such disruption is linked to specific defects in the development and function of interneurons - the cells that are responsible for establishing inhibitory circuits in the brain. These insights are leading to a better understanding of the causes of schizophrenia, autism and intellectual disabilities, and may contribute to the development of more-effective therapeutic interventions.