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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 Feb 23;113(8):2276-81. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1519295113. Epub 2016 Feb 8.

Balanced feedforward inhibition and dominant recurrent inhibition in olfactory cortex.

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Department of Neuroscience, Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260.
Department of Neuroscience, Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260


Throughout the brain, the recruitment of feedforward and recurrent inhibition shapes neural responses. However, disentangling the relative contributions of these often-overlapping cortical circuits is challenging. The piriform cortex provides an ideal system to address this issue because the interneurons responsible for feedforward and recurrent inhibition are anatomically segregated in layer (L) 1 and L2/3 respectively. Here we use a combination of optical and electrical activation of interneurons to profile the inhibitory input received by three classes of principal excitatory neuron in the anterior piriform cortex. In all classes, we find that L1 interneurons provide weaker inhibition than L2/3 interneurons. Nonetheless, feedforward inhibitory strength covaries with the amount of afferent excitation received by each class of principal neuron. In contrast, intracortical stimulation of L2/3 evokes strong inhibition that dominates recurrent excitation in all classes. Finally, we find that the relative contributions of feedforward and recurrent pathways differ between principal neuron classes. Specifically, L2 neurons receive more reliable afferent drive and less overall inhibition than L3 neurons. Alternatively, L3 neurons receive substantially more intracortical inhibition. These three features--balanced afferent drive, dominant recurrent inhibition, and differential recruitment by afferent vs. intracortical circuits, dependent on cell class--suggest mechanisms for olfactory processing that may extend to other sensory cortices.


cortex; inhibition; olfaction

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