Parvalbumin-Expressing GABAergic Neurons in Mouse Barrel Cortex Contribute to Gating a Goal-Directed Sensorimotor Transformation
Sensory processing in neocortex is primarily driven by glutamatergic excitation, which is counterbalanced by GABAergic inhibition, mediated by a diversity of largely local inhibitory interneurons. Here, we trained mice to lick a reward spout in response to whisker deflection, and we recorded from genetically defined GABAergic inhibitory neurons in layer 2/3 of the primary somatosensory barrel cortex. Parvalbumin-expressing (PV), vasoactive intestinal peptide-expressing (VIP), and somatostatin-expressing (SST) neurons displayed distinct action potential firing dynamics during task performance. Whereas SST neurons fired at low rates, both PV and VIP neurons fired at high rates both spontaneously and in response to whisker stimulation. After an initial outcome-invariant early sensory response, PV neurons had lower firing rates in hit trials compared to miss trials. Optogenetic inhibition of PV neurons during this time period enhanced behavioral performance. Hence, PV neuron activity might contribute causally to gating the sensorimotor transformation of a whisker sensory stimulus into licking motor output.