Inhibitory stabilization and cortical computation

Nat Rev Neurosci. 2021 Jan;22(1):21-37. doi: 10.1038/s41583-020-00390-z. Epub 2020 Nov 11.


Neuronal networks with strong recurrent connectivity provide the brain with a powerful means to perform complex computational tasks. However, high-gain excitatory networks are susceptible to instability, which can lead to runaway activity, as manifested in pathological regimes such as epilepsy. Inhibitory stabilization offers a dynamic, fast and flexible compensatory mechanism to balance otherwise unstable networks, thus enabling the brain to operate in its most efficient regimes. Here we review recent experimental evidence for the presence of such inhibition-stabilized dynamics in the brain and discuss their consequences for cortical computation. We show how the study of inhibition-stabilized networks in the brain has been facilitated by recent advances in the technological toolbox and perturbative techniques, as well as a concomitant development of biologically realistic computational models. By outlining future avenues, we suggest that inhibitory stabilization can offer an exemplary case of how experimental neuroscience can progress in tandem with technology and theory to advance our understanding of the brain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*