The exquisite architecture of cortex incorporates a myriad of inhibitory interneuron types. Until recently, the dearth of techniques for cell type identification in awake animals has made it difficult to link interneuron activity with circuit function, computation and behavior. This situation has changed dramatically in recent years with the advent of novel tools for targeting genetically distinct interneuron types so their activity can be observed and manipulated. The association of different interneuron subtypes with specific circuit functions, such as gain modulation or disinhibition, is starting to reveal canonical circuit motifs conserved across neocortical regions. Moreover, it appears that some interneuron types are recruited at specific behavioral events and likely control the flow of information among and within brain areas at behavioral time scales. Based on these results we propose that interneuron function goes beyond network coordination and interneurons should be viewed as integral elements of cortical computations serving behavior.
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