Recruitment of GABAergic Interneurons in the Barrel Cortex during Active Tactile Behavior

Neuron. 2019 Oct 23;104(2):412-427.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.07.027. Epub 2019 Aug 26.


Neural computation involves diverse types of GABAergic inhibitory interneurons that are integrated with excitatory (E) neurons into precisely structured circuits. To understand how each neuron type shapes sensory representations, we measured firing patterns of defined types of neurons in the barrel cortex while mice performed an active, whisker-dependent object localization task. Touch excited fast-spiking (FS) interneurons at short latency, followed by activation of E neurons and somatostatin-expressing (SST) interneurons. Touch only weakly modulated vasoactive intestinal polypeptide-expressing (VIP) interneurons. Voluntary whisker movement activated FS neurons in the ventral posteromedial nucleus (VPM) target layers, a subset of SST neurons and a majority of VIP neurons. Together, FS neurons track thalamic input, mediating feedforward inhibition. SST neurons monitor local excitation, providing feedback inhibition. VIP neurons are activated by non-sensory inputs, disinhibiting E and FS neurons. Our data reveal rules of recruitment for interneuron types during behavior, providing foundations for understanding computation in cortical microcircuits.

Keywords: FS; GABAergic interneurons; SST; VIP; active touch; barrel cortex; in vivo whole-cell; juxtacellular; movement; opto-tagging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • GABAergic Neurons / physiology*
  • Interneurons / metabolism
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Neural Pathways
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Somatosensory Cortex / cytology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / metabolism
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Somatostatin / metabolism
  • Touch / physiology
  • Touch Perception / physiology*
  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide / metabolism
  • Ventral Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Ventral Thalamic Nuclei / metabolism
  • Ventral Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Vibrissae*


  • Vasoactive Intestinal Peptide
  • Somatostatin