While recent work has revealed how different inhibitory interneurons influence responses of cortical neurons to sensory stimuli, little is known about their distinct contributions to sensory perception. Here, we optogenetically activated different genetically defined interneurons [parvalbumin (PV), somatostatin (SST), vasoactive intestinal peptide (VIP)] in visual cortex (V1) of mice working at threshold in a contrast increment detection task. The visual stimulus was paired with optogenetic stimulation to assess how enhancing V1 inhibitory neuron activity during visual processing altered task performance. PV or SST activation impaired, while VIP stimulation improved, contrast increment detection. The impairment produced by PV or SST activation persisted over several weeks of testing. In contrast, mice learned to reliably detect VIP activation in the absence of any natural visual stimulus. Thus, different inhibitory signals make distinct contributions to visual contrast perception.
Keywords: inhibition; interneurons; mouse; psychophysics; vision; visual contrast.