Mouse primary somatosensory barrel cortex (wS1) processes whisker sensory information, receiving input from two distinct thalamic nuclei. The first-order ventral posterior medial (VPM) somatosensory thalamic nucleus most densely innervates layer 4 (L4) barrels, whereas the higher-order posterior thalamic nucleus (medial part, POm) most densely innervates L1 and L5A. We optogenetically stimulated VPM or POm axons, and recorded evoked excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) in different cell-types across cortical layers in wS1. We found that excitatory neurons and parvalbumin-expressing inhibitory neurons received the largest EPSPs, dominated by VPM input to L4 and POm input to L5A. In contrast, somatostatin-expressing inhibitory neurons received very little input from either pathway in any layer. Vasoactive intestinal peptide-expressing inhibitory neurons received an intermediate level of excitatory input with less apparent layer-specificity. Our data help understand how wS1 neocortical microcircuits might process and integrate sensory and higher-order inputs.
Disinhibition of cortical excitatory cell gate information flow through and between corticalcolumns. The major contribution of Martinotti cells (MC) is providing dendritic inhibition toexcitatory neurons and therefore they are a main component of disinhibitory connections.Here we show by means of optogenetics that MC in layers II/III of the mouse primarysomatosensory cortex are inhibited by both parvalbumin (PV)- and vasoactive intestinalpolypeptide (VIP)-expressing cells. Paired recordings revealed stronger synaptic inputonto MC from PV cells than from VIP cells. Moreover, PV cell input showed frequencyindependentdepression, whereas VIP cell input facilitated at high frequencies. Thesedifferences in the properties of the two unitary connections enable disinhibition with distincttemporal features.