Prefrontal Parvalbumin Neurons in Control of Attention

Cell. 2016 Jan 14;164(1-2):208-218. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.11.038.


While signatures of attention have been extensively studied in sensory systems, the neural sources and computations responsible for top-down control of attention are largely unknown. Using chronic recordings in mice, we found that fast-spiking parvalbumin (FS-PV) interneurons in medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) uniformly show increased and sustained firing during goal-driven attentional processing, correlating to the level of attention. Elevated activity of FS-PV neurons on the timescale of seconds predicted successful execution of behavior. Successful allocation of attention was characterized by strong synchronization of FS-PV neurons, increased gamma oscillations, and phase locking of pyramidal firing. Phase-locked pyramidal neurons showed gamma-phase-dependent rate modulation during successful attentional processing. Optogenetic silencing of FS-PV neurons deteriorated attentional processing, while optogenetic synchronization of FS-PV neurons at gamma frequencies had pro-cognitive effects and improved goal-directed behavior. FS-PV neurons thus act as a functional unit coordinating the activity in the local mPFC circuit during goal-driven attentional processing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attention*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Cognition
  • Gamma Rhythm
  • Mice
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Optogenetics
  • Parvalbumins / metabolism
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology


  • Parvalbumins