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Neuron. 2013 Jan 9;77(1):155-67. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.11.004.

Neocortical somatostatin-expressing GABAergic interneurons disinhibit the thalamorecipient layer 4.

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Department of Physiology and Neuroscience, Smilow Neuroscience Program, NYU School of Medicine, New York, NY 10016, USA.


Subtypes of GABAergic interneurons (INs) are crucial for cortical function, yet their specific roles are largely unknown. In contrast to supra- and infragranular layers, where most somatostatin-expressing (SOM) INs are layer 1-targeting Martinotti cells, the axons of SOM INs in layer 4 of somatosensory cortex largely remain within layer 4. Moreover, we found that whereas layers 2/3 SOM INs target mainly pyramidal cells (PCs), layer 4 SOM INs target mainly fast-spiking (FS) INs. Accordingly, optogenetic inhibition of SOM INs in an active cortical network increases the firing of layers 2/3 PCs whereas it decreases the firing of layer 4 principal neurons (PNs). This unexpected effect of SOM INs on layer 4 PNs occurs via their inhibition of local FS INs. These results reveal a disinhibitory microcircuit in the thalamorecipient layer through interactions among subtypes of INs and suggest that the SOM IN-mediated disinhibition represents an important circuit mechanism for cortical information processing.

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