The mammalian neocortex is a highly interconnected network of different types of neurons organized into both layers and columns. Overlaid on this structural organization is a pattern of functional connectivity that can be rapidly and flexibly altered during behavior. Parvalbumin-positive (PV+) inhibitory neurons, which are implicated in cortical oscillations and can change neuronal selectivity, may play a pivotal role in these dynamic changes. We found that optogenetic activation of PV+ neurons in the auditory cortex enhanced feedforward functional connectivity in the putative thalamorecipient circuit and in cortical columnar circuits. In contrast, stimulation of PV+ neurons induced no change in connectivity between sites in the same layers. The activity of PV+ neurons may thus serve as a gating mechanism to enhance feedforward, but not lateral or feedback, information flow in cortical circuits. Functionally, it may preferentially enhance the contribution of bottom-up sensory inputs to perception.
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