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The cerebral cortex encodes, stores and combines information about the internal and external environment in rhythmic activity of multiple frequency ranges. Neurones of the cortex can be defined, recognized and compared on the comprehensive application of the following measures: (i) brain area- and cell domain-specific distribution of input and output synapses, (ii) expression of molecules involved in cell signalling, (iii) membrane and synaptic properties reflecting the expression of membrane proteins, (iv) temporal structure of firing in vivo, resulting from (i)-(iii). Spatial and temporal measures of neurones in the network reflect an indivisible unity of evolutionary design, i.e. neurones do not have separate structure or function. The blueprint of this design is most easily accessible in the CA1 area of the hippocampus, where a relatively uniform population of pyramidal cells and their inputs follow an instantly recognizable laminated pattern and act within stereotyped network activity patterns. Reviewing the cell types and their spatio-temporal interactions, we suggest that CA1 pyramidal cells are supported by at least 16 distinct types of GABAergic neurone. During a given behaviour-contingent network oscillation, interneurones of a given type exhibit similar firing patterns. During different network oscillations representing two distinct brain states, interneurones of the same class show different firing patterns modulating their postsynaptic target-domain in a brain-state-dependent manner. These results suggest roles for specific interneurone types in structuring the activity of pyramidal cells via their respective target domains, and accurately timing and synchronizing pyramidal cell discharge, rather than providing generalized inhibition. Finally, interneurones belonging to different classes may fire preferentially at distinct time points during a given oscillation. As different interneurones innervate distinct domains of the pyramidal cells, the different compartments will receive GABAergic input differentiated in time. Such a dynamic, spatio-temporal, GABAergic control, which evolves distinct patterns during different brain states, is ideally suited to regulating the input integration of individual pyramidal cells contributing to the formation of cell assemblies and representations in the hippocampus and, probably, throughout the cerebral cortex.

Original publication




Journal article


J Physiol

Publication Date





9 - 26


Animals, Brain, Cerebral Cortex, Electrophysiology, Hippocampus, Humans, Interneurons, Neurons, Theta Rhythm