Inhibitory interneurons and their circuit motifs in the many layers of the barrel cortex

Neuroscience. 2018 Jan 1:368:132-151. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2017.05.027. Epub 2017 May 18.


Recent years have seen substantial progress in studying the structural and functional properties of GABAergic interneurons and their roles in the neuronal networks of barrel cortex. Although GABAergic interneurons represent only about 12% of the total number of neocortical neurons, they are extremely diverse with respect to their structural and functional properties. It has become clear that barrel cortex interneurons not only serve the maintenance of an appropriate excitation/inhibition balance but also are directly involved in sensory processing. In this review we present different interneuron types and their axonal projection pattern framework in the context of the laminar and columnar organization of the barrel cortex. The main focus is here on the most prominent interneuron types, i.e. basket cells, chandelier cells, Martinotti cells, bipolar/bitufted cells and neurogliaform cells, but interneurons with more unusual axonal domains will also be mentioned. We describe their developmental origin, their classification with respect to molecular, morphological and intrinsic membrane and synaptic properties. Most importantly, we will highlight the most prominent circuit motifs these interneurons are involved in and in which way they serve feed-forward inhibition, feedback inhibition and disinhibition. Finally, this will be put into context to their functional roles in sensory signal perception and processing in the whisker system and beyond.

Keywords: axonal projection motifs; barrel cortex; disinhibition; feed-forward inhibition; feedback inhibition; interneurons.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology*
  • GABAergic Neurons / classification
  • GABAergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Interneurons / classification
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / cytology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*