The spatiotemporal control of neuronal excitability is fundamental to the inhibitory process. We now have a wealth of information about the active dendritic properties of cortical neurons including axonally generated sodium action potentials as well as local sodium spikelets generated in the dendrites, calcium plateau spikes, and NMDA spikes. All of these events have been shown to be highly modified by the spatiotemporal pattern of nearby inhibitory input which can drastically change the output firing mode of the neuron. This means that particular populations of interneurons embedded in the neocortical microcircuitry can more precisely control pyramidal cell output than has previously been thought. Furthermore, the output of any given neuron tends to feed back onto inhibitory circuits making the resultant network activity further dependent on inhibition. Network activity is therefore ultimately governed by the subcellular microcircuitry of the cortex and it is impossible to ignore the subcompartmentalization of inhibitory influence at the neuronal level in order to understand its effects at the network level. In this article, we summarize the inhibitory circuits that have been shown so far to act on specific dendritic compartments in vivo.
Keywords: cortex; dendrite; inhibition; interneuron.