Decorrelating action of inhibition in neocortical networks

J Neurosci. 2013 Jun 5;33(23):9813-30. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4579-12.2013.


Inhibitory GABAergic interneurons have been extensively studied but their contribution to circuit dynamics remain poorly understood. Although it has been suggested that interneurons, especially those belonging to the same subclass, synchronize their activity and impart this synchrony onto their local network, recent theoretical and experimental work have challenged this view. To better understand the activity of interneurons during cortical activity, we combined molecular identification, two-photon imaging, and electrophysiological recordings in thalamocortical slices from mouse somatosensory cortex. Using calcium imaging to monitor cortical activity, we found low spiking correlations among parvalbumin or somatostatin interneurons during cortical UP states, indicating that interneurons do not synchronize their firing. Intracellular recordings confirmed that nearby interneurons do not display more synchronous spiking than excitatory cells. The lack of interneuron synchrony was also evident during slow oscillations, even among interneurons that were electrically coupled via gap junctions, suggesting that their coupling does not function to synchronize their activity. Using voltage-clamp recordings from nearby pyramidal cells, we found that inhibitory currents (IPSCs) are more correlated than excitatory ones, but that correlated IPSCs arise from the activation of common presynaptic inhibitory cells, rather than from synchronization of interneuron activity. Finally, we demonstrate that pharmacologically reducing inhibitory currents increases correlated excitatory activity. We conclude that inhibitory interneurons do not have synchronous activity during UP states, and that their function may be to decorrelate rather than to synchronize the firing of neurons within the local network.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Female
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*